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By Brian Hanley-
(CBS) Now what?
If Phoenix goalie Mike Smith and his outstanding play was the sole reason the Blackhawks were an early playoff exit, the team and its fans could likely live with a second straight first-round playoff loss.
“It’s just a tough way for things to end,” Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said after the team’s 39 shots in a 4-0 season-ending loss. “We came on, had a great first period and things were going well. We played a great game. We just weren’t able to beat (Smith).”
Such simple thinking is as unproductive as the Hawks power play was this season.
No, this team has some serious work to do this summer.
Though many fans would want anyone but Stan Bowman doing the fixing, the guess here is that president John McDonough will give his general manager one more try and righting the Hawks wayward ship.
Which means Coach Q is also safe for the time being.
Though such job speculation may sound silly just two years removed from the Stanley Cup celebration which captured this city, the Blackhawks bar has been set high by owner Rocky Wirtz and McDonough. No longer is the Bob Pulford string of 27 consecutive playoff appearances, a real run of mediocrity given no championships, the standard for which this organization judges itself.
The Hawks final game Monday contained all that is right and wrong with this current group of talent. The team showed how it can dominate for long stretches, as it did in a first period during which the Hawks had a 16-2 advantage in shots.
The fact the Hawks had no goals to show for that 20 minutes speaks volumes.
The team’s stars, and if you take Phoenix Coyote veteran Shane Doan at his word no team had as deep a top six at forward as the Hawks this season, didn’t shine bright enough in the playoff.
“We feel like we had so much more than we ended up showing,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We gave it everything — it just didn’t go our way. It’s disappointing we couldn’t give our fans more than that.”
Here’s what the fans need to see starting next season:
An upgrade in goaltending: The Chicago Tribune fan poll Tuesday afternoon had 43 percent of almost 1900 voters wanting the team to address the most important position on the ice. Corey Crawford was good at times, awful at others, but never great this season as the team’s zero shutouts will attest. Some fans have suggested the Hawks get on the phone to the Buffalo Sabres and find out if there is a trade to be made which would send Patrick Kane home for goalie Ryan Miller.
It is certainly worth the price of some of Bowman’s cell anytime minutes.
The team also needs bigger blue line bodies. Pronto!
Stan shouldn’t forget he still needs to fill the season-long need of a legit second-line center, an omission by the GM which was woefully apparent against the Coyotes.
If only Bowman could clone the 6-3 size and all the intangibles of Andrew Ladd, a winning winger whom the Hawks dearly miss.
The easy thing to do would be to launch and assistant coach or two and, given the Hawks 1-for-19 playoff power play, Mike Kitchen may be soon seeking other employment.
“It’s frustrating,” Toews said. “It’s not like we weren’t trying or we didn’t care. We had a lot of skill out there. We just couldn’t get it done. It was kind of that way all season, and we can’t just come into the playoffs and expect to turn on the switch and see a better power play.
“Sometimes in these games when you can’t score five-on-five or their goalie is standing on his head, you have to find a way to do it on their power play, and we didn’t.”
Not that the team’s penalty-killers were anything to brag about this season.
This roster needs more than a tweak or two. It needs some serious shake-up.
Coach Q said Monday’s post game press conference was not the time to talk about such changes.
Tuesday morning wasn’t too soon given the work ahead.
Brian Hanley co-hosts The Mully and Hanley Show, heard weekdays from 5am-9am on 670 The Score.