GM: Hawks goaltending subpar
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admitted his team's goaltending wasn't up to par this past season but stopped short of declaring he would be looking for a change at the position this summer.
"Our goaltending in general was not our strength," Bowman said on Wednesday. "I don't think it's fair to lay the blame on one player. You win as a team, you lose as a team. I think we need to be stronger defensively and that includes our team commitment to defense, not simply the goaltending and not simply the defensemen."
At the same time, Bowman didn't dismiss anything, not after a second consecutive first-round exit from the playoffs.
"You don't rule anything in or out," he said. "We're always trying to improve our team."
Bowman is optimistic about the future of the Hawks, citing the contributions they received from young players like Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes. As for trading from their core group that helped them win a championship in 2010, he's not interested.
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"It's not something we're fixating on," Bowman said. "It's really difficult to remove one of those pieces, unless you have somebody that can fill that person's spot."
Coach Joel Quenneville, however, left the door open for bigger changes.
"You have a nice core here, a nice group of guys here," he said after Bowman spoke to the media. "They give you a chance every year to win a championship. Whether it's a tweak or you want to do more than that, but that's something good to talk about."
One position that has generated plenty of conversation is second line center. Bowman sounds committed to Patrick Kane.
"Our team's best record, and it coincided with Patrick's best performance, was when he was in the middle," Bowman explained. "Patrick carried our team the last month or five weeks of the season. He kind of put us on his back and got us into the playoffs. He stepped up and was our No.1 center for all those weeks. ... I think the notion that he can't play center or isn't good at center has been dispelled. Not only did our team play well when he was in the middle, he played well. He had his most productive time when he was there."
As for looking for a center this summer, Bowman said "Kane in the middle is certainly better than any other center that's available."
Bowman was also asked about his relationship with Quenneville, especially during a season long nine-game losing streak. That's when director of pro personnel Barry Smith was added to help the coaching staff for a while.
"We have great communication back and forth," Bowman said. "We see things similarly in terms of things that need improvement. ... Our relationship wasn't strained at all. ... Obviously there was a challenge when we had the long losing streak -- if anything we came together as a unit."
Bowman intimated coaching changes would be up to Quenneville, but he made it clear he wasn't happy with special teams' play from his group.
"The results speak for themselves," Bowman said. "They were a huge disappointment this year. It's unacceptable to have the caliber of players we have and not have it work. Ultimately we have to improve that."
Bowman wouldn't elaborate if any of the team's free-agents-to-be would be back, only saying they won't all be returning.
"You have to look at the whole season, not just the ending," Bowman said. "We did have a lot of good things happen as well. We saw some young players emerge. The future is very bright for our organization. Sitting here right now, not playing past April is not exciting. ... There is an ability to improve from within, personnel wise. There's the ability for our current players to improve their games as well."