In 2016, the Blackhawks’ future looked bright despite being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
At the time, general manager Stan Bowman believed he held the pieces that were going to develop and improve the team. He pointed to budding prospects such as Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz, who were going to lead the next successful generation of Hawks.
But after Schmaltz was dealt to the Coyotes for center Dylan Strome and winger Brendan Perlini on Sunday, none of those players Bowman mentioned are with the team. Neither is longtime coach Joel Quenneville, who was fired Nov. 6.
So what direction are the Hawks (9-10-5) heading?
“We’re trying to improve,” Bowman said Monday. “To put it simply, I think we’re trying to have our younger players take the next step and become impact players. At the same time, we’re trying to have our established players continue to be difference-makers. We’re a better team today than we were yesterday simply because we have more depth up front, we have more options.”
Coach Jeremy Colliton said the Hawks didn’t trade Schmaltz to light a fire under some of the slumping young forwards. Rather, Colliton and Bowman saw it as an opportunity to get two “very promising” young forwards for the price of one. Bowman also said the addition of Strome and Perlini “gives us the chance to be competitive this season.”
Competitive, sure. But will it be enough to make the playoffs?
For now, Bowman spoke of being patient with the team as it adjusts to Colliton’s system.
“You have to be patient to allow the process to take place in terms of learning to play a little bit of a different way,” he said. “You have a new coach who stresses different things than the previous coach, so there’s no way to hurry that up.
“In the meantime, you want to try to win as many games as you can. I think when you do that, it’s not too hard to stay in the race. You have to just keep looking forward. You can’t get ahead of yourself, you can’t win 10 games at one time. You have to win one game at a time 10 times, and then suddenly you got a winning streak there. So we’re approaching it that way.”
NOTE: Defenseman Connor Murphy practiced with the Hawks for the first time this season.
Throughout training this summer, Murphy had lingering back soreness but didn’t believe it was serious. Fast-forward to training camp, and the Hawks’ medical staff declared Murphy out for the beginning of the season.
It’s unclear when Murphy will return. Asked what his timeline was, Murphy said he was “more week to week.”
“I just show up and ask if I can skate every day, and today they let me practice and that was a big bonus,” said Murphy, who hasn’t been cleared for full contact. “I feel good, but I’m definitely going in the right direction.”