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Joel Quenneville to remain Blackhawks coach, GM says

Stan Bowman promises other changes after Chicago was swept in first round of playoffs

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville will remain coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, after they were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season, general manager Stan Bowman said Saturday.

"Joel is our head coach," Bowman said at United Center. "He will continue to be our head coach, and Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again." 

The Blackhawks were swept by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round on Thursday. They entered the playoffs as a favorite to win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in eight seasons and were the top seed in the West but scored three goals in the four games.

Bowman said there will be changes in the offseason but did not get specific. He called the early playoff exit unacceptable six times in a press conference that lasted 12-plus minutes. 

"It's unacceptable to be where we are today," Bowman said. "I'm frustrated. I'm angry. This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take. Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end, and it's a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here, and that's unacceptable."

Bowman said the Blackhawks will go through an extensive review.

"I need to be better," he said. "There's no doubt about it. I'm going to take a look at all things. I can promise you I will be better. Top to bottom, we need more.

"We expected to win the Stanley Cup when we started the season. We expected it when we started the playoffs, to win the Cup. We didn't come anywhere close to that, so we need to reassess everything."

The Blackhawks already knew they had tough decisions to make in the offseason, but their postseason performance could affect their plans. On July 1, forward Richard Panik can become a restricted free agent, and backup goaltender Scott Darling can become an unrestricted free agent. Chicago also will lose a player in the NHL Expansion Draft, to be held June 18-20.    

Quenneville, who is under contract through the 2019-20 season, lamented the Blackhawks' lack of intensity in the series, as he did following Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

 "There's been anger, frustration, disappointment," said Quenneville, who has coached the Blackhawks for nine seasons. "I guess anger is probably as good a word you can probably express with where we're at, and how I feel. Figure it out, is the process now."

The Blackhawks lost their final eight games of the season. Chicago clinched the top seed in the Western Conference on an off day April 1 and did not win another game, losing the final four of regular season, and the four against the Predators.

Blackhawks players said they will use the offseason to recover physically and recharge mentally. Two days after the sweep, the result stung for Chicago, which scored three goals in the four games. 

"We never grabbed the momentum at all in that series, and it's a number of little things that led to one major failure," said captain Jonathan Toews, who had one goal in the series, as did right wing Patrick Kane. "We'll look at it that way, as individuals, more psychologically than anything. [We'll] think about how bad that feels and just how disappointing it is to have a great season and accomplish all our goals and get home ice, get to the postseason, and getting to that time of year when everyone wants to play and not delivering. 

"In that regard, we've got a little soul-searching to do and it starts with myself."

The Blackhawks made similar comments last year after losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games, but defenseman Brent Seabrook said this was different.

"We didn't start great against the Blues, but we gave them everything we had and we made it a series," Seabrook said. "It was a bounce here and a bounce there that didn't go our way, and I think you can definitely be more proud of going out that way than going out against Nashville in four straight, in a series that we didn't even show up in.

"We lost to a good team in St. Louis last year, but at least we showed them who we were. This year, we didn't do anything like that."

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