Wednesday, April 3, 2013
No major moves, Hawks confident in roster
By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks didn't make any significant moves prior to Wednesday's trade deadline, but general manager Stan Bowman said he was satisfied with the players he acquired and with his team going forward.
The Blackhawks made three moves leading up to the deadline and just one which affects the team at the NHL level this season. They acquired NHL veteran center Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round pick on Monday, the rights to Cornell University defenseman Kirill Gotovets from the Tampa Lightning for forward Philippe Paradis on Tuesday and minor-leaguer Maxime Sauvé from the Boston Bruins for forward Rob Flick on Wednesday.
"Well, we did a lot of listening," Bowman said at the United Center after the afternoon deadline. "There was a lot of talk leading up to today and even a lot of talk today. ... Nothing we were close on.
"We were focused on getting a center, and we got Michal and we were excited about that. We got a lot of depth at every position. We've had that, which I think has been the strength of our team all year long. We have young players we have confidence in. We have some other players (Steve Montador, Rostislav Olesz) rounding into form and hadn't played in the beginning and they're playing well in Rockford recently.
"You have to listen. It's our job to look around to see what's available. We have to ask ourselves the question, ‘Does it make us better?' To make a move to make a move, we don't believe in that."
The Blackhawks have led the NHL in points for most of the season after beginning the year with a 24-game point streak. They currently lead the Western Conference with a 27-5-3 record and 57 points in 35 games. The Anaheim Ducks are in second place with 53 points in 36 games.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday before the deadline that the Blackhawks were striving to win the Stanley Cup this season and he was confident in the roster he already possessed.
"That's the motivation here," Quenneville said. "All year long, we've played to put ourselves in the position. That's what we're competing for. That's what we're looking to trying to achieve. We've liked our team all year. We want to make sure we go into the playoffs with a real positive note here. That's our objective. You don't want to look any further than getting there and then you look at one opponent. We don't want to look any further than that, but we like our team in all areas.
"It's been a good fit. The chemistry has been good with our group. I think the combinations up front have been pretty predictable in what you get out of them every game. The back end has been better than it's been in the past. Goaltending has been real strong. I think we've been very pleased with how things have gone along this year particularly with consistency."
Handzus was the Blackhawks' one major move, and he practiced with the team for the first time on Wednesday. Quenneville, who previously coached Handzus with the St. Louis Blues, thought Handzus would help the team.
"(Handzus) can play a number of roles for us," Quenneville said. "He can take faceoffs. He can plays wings, both wings. But he's a smart player, versatility in a lot of ways. We like his experience, size, thought process, can kill penalties as well. He's useful in a lot ways. We like the person we're bringing in the locker room. He's been here in the past. I think he'll instantly fit in with the guys."
The Blackhawks also expect to get a boost when forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa return to the ice. Sharp has missed 11 games with an unspecified upper-body injury, and Hossa, who also has an unspecified upper-body injury, has missed six games. Hossa is expected to play on Thursday, and Sharp should return soon. The Blackhawks are 20-0-3 this season with both players in the lineup.
Bowman said earlier in the week he was confident the Blackhawks had enough on their roster to make a run even if they didn't add any more pieces. Sharp said that meant a lot to the players.
"I saw Stan made a comment about how he says we earned the right to see what this group can do in the playoffs," Sharp said on Wednesday. "That's a very confident thing to say. That translates through the team. As a group in here, we have great chemistry. We feel good on the ice together. We like to hear that stuff."
Bowman said the acquisitions of Gotovets and Sauvé were made to open roster spots in the future. Bowman said Sauvé will be evaluated while playing with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL this season, and they will decide next year where Gotovets, a junior at Cornell, fits with the organization.
Bowman also said Montador and Olesz cleared waivers on Wednesday.
"That was really to see if there was interest out there," Bowman said. "There weren't a lot of trades, but there are some years there's teams looking for depth moves and what not. That was more or less to see what the market was like. Actually now that we still have them, I think it worked out well for us. I was at the game (Tuesday) in Rockford. They're playing great hockey right now. That's good to see.
"I would venture there's no team who has two guys like that in their American League affiliate. They've been NHL players for years. They're getting into top shape and they've played really well for us. You add them into the mix of our young players, and that probably puts us 16 or 17 deep on forwards, eight or nine defenseman. You need that as the stretch run comes and there's potential injuries."