Hurting Hawks: Toews, Kane express frustrations over another disappointing season
The Chicago Blackhawks are a playoff team.
That's what president and CEO John McDonough told us last September during a media day inside the United Center to promote the Winter Classic.
"Internally the message has been sent," McDonough said. "We've discussed it on a regular basis. I have faith and confidence in all of these people.
"We're in the results business … and expectations since Rocky (Wirtz) took over are very, very high. The expectations for me this year is this is a playoff team. Put yourself in a position to make a run."
As we saw, that run never occurred, and the Hawks will miss the postseason for a second straight season. They were officially eliminated Tuesday when Colorado defeated Edmonton, meaning the final three games -- which included Wednesday's 4-3 shootout win over against the Blues at the United Center -- don't mean a thing.
A coaching change after 15 games didn't help. Nor did a pair of eight-game losing streaks. Nor did some lackluster play and disappointing results in critical games over the last six weeks against the Kings (twice), Avs (twice), Stars, Canucks, Flyers and Coyotes.
"Just crazy that our season's going to be over in five days and that's it for another year," Patrick Kane said. "Pretty frustrating, especially when a lot of us feel like we're in our prime … and had good seasons. But that's the way it is."
So now what?
Does the ax fall on general manager Stan Bowman, who put this roster together? His off-season additions of Chris Kunitz, Cam Ward and Brandon Manning did little to help. Still, he had little salary-cap room in which to work and did manage to:
• Unload Marian Hossa's burdensome cap hit.
• Pull off two impressive in-season trades that brought Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini and Drake Caggiula on board.
Those additions, combined with everyone becoming more comfortable in coach Jeremy Colliton's system, were big reasons the Hawks went from 9-18-5 on Dec. 11 to 26-28-9 on Feb. 24.
The playoffs were within reach, and McDonough suddenly was starting to look like a soothsayer.
But Bowman made no moves at or before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.
It was a decision that, according to a source, dumbfounded the veterans. Their thinking was, look, we made this run. We're right there. Give us a little help.
But none came and although the Hawks did win five straight from March 7-16, they eventually wilted down the stretch.
"I think we were one of the top teams since December," Kane said. "You could say the future's bright, but at the same time you want to see results.
"It would've been great this year for a lot of young players to get that playoff experience and be able to experience that. It's disappointing we're not going to be able to do that."
Jonathan Toews, upbeat and positive all season, has been much more melancholy of late, and he struck a similar tone before Wednesday's game against the Blues.
"Having gone through what we went through last year, it was a lot of excitement and a lot of motivation trying to turn things around," Toews said. "But obviously there's still some growing and some improvement and some experience we need to go through.
"The biggest thing is letting this sink in and really identifying where we've gone wrong."
That goes for players, but for management as well. What will Bowman do to turn this thing around?
And, more important, can he?
"We've got to keep pushing ourselves to get better and better," Toews continued. "The league's getting better, our division's getting better, so it's tough. It's a tough league.
"You've got to give it everything you have and keep learning from some of your shortfalls."