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Blackhawks' high standards not shaken, GM says

Bowman turning page after missing playoffs for first time since 2007-08

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

There are less than three weeks remaining in the 2017-18 NHL regular season and teams are fighting for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the annual general managers meetings taking place in Boca Raton, Florida, this week, NHL.com is sitting down with some of the biggest names in the game. Today, Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman discusses a disappointing season.

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Chicago Blackhawks set the highest standards when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

Now they have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007-08, ending a nine-season playoff streak. At 30-35-9, they're last in the Central Division and third-from-last in the Western Conference.

What happened this season?

"I think the problem with the question is that there is an assumption there is answer, right?" general manager Stan Bowman said. "If it was just one thing, then we would have fixed that thing. I think it's just a lot of things went wrong."

 

[RELATED: Blackhawks couldn't overcome struggles by core players, Crawford injury | Blackhawks seek positives following elimination]

 

Goaltender Corey Crawford hasn't played since Dec. 23 because of an upper-body injury. The Blackhawks rank 28th on the power play (16.1 percent) and 20th on the penalty kill (79.3 percent). Though younger players like Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz have had good seasons, the top players haven't been at their best.

"Sort of across the board, they're having down seasons," Bowman said. "I don't think there's a specific reason why. I think if we knew what that reason was, you could make sure it changed. But [we] tried a lot of different things. It's just, [they] haven't had it this year.

"So that's a tough combination when you look at the special teams, the goalie and your top players not playing to their normal levels. I don't know if many teams would have success with that sort of recipe."

Bowman broke it down and looked ahead in an interview with NHL.com:

 

On the importance of Crawford

"Corey's one of the top five goalies in the League. He probably doesn't get the recognition [he deserves], though now he probably is, people looking back at how good he's been. Since December on, he's been out. That's probably the biggest thing."

 

On if there's any reason to believe Crawford won't be back to normal

"No. We had thought originally that he was going to be back by now playing, so it's taking a little bit longer. You look ahead to next season, there's no reason to think that this is going to continue beyond. If the season kept going or if we were going to make the playoffs, I still think that he would be back playing. But as it is now, I think we're turning towards next year, and I don't have any reason to think he's not going to be playing."

Video: CHI@DAL: Crawford stones Janmark with heads-up play

 

On if this has shaken his faith in his core or it's just a down season

"They're not that old. I think there's plenty of players in the League that have had sort of similar situations where maybe they didn't have their best year and they bounced back, [Los Angeles Kings center Anze] Kopitar and [Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno] Chara. There's a lot of guys like that are now really difference makers on their teams, so I think our guys should find some excitement in that. They're going to have dissect their own game and figure out how they can be better, but still optimistic that there's no reason that they shouldn't be back to that elite level."

 

On what gives him hope the younger players can keep growing

"I think they're just scratching the surface at this point. I think looking at the performance of them in an offensive manner, there's a lot more to give there, and they've given us a boost. They all have speed, skill and creativity. That's the way the game is going. Being able to score goals and make plays is pretty important in today's game, and they can do it, so I expect them to just expand their game as we go forward. That's the main thing. I think you're trying to look for positives in a year like that, and that's certainly a positive."

 

On coach Joel Quenneville and potential changes

"I think obviously Joel's got an incredible record, but Joel's like everyone. I'm the same thing. We're all going to get analyzed at the end of the year and figure out where everybody stands. I think you've just got to look at the job Joel's done here, and even to this day, he and the coaches are trying to figure this out and they're trying to push the right buttons and make it work. I know it's a frustrating year for them and for all of us. We're all trying to get better."

 

On the Blackhawks' high standards

"You don't want those standards to slip. In a year like this, you're very frustrated. You still want people to expect high things of your players and your team, and we're no different."

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