Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman never raises his voice and rarely shows his emotions. He tiptoes around questions and never wades into controversy. It’s part of what makes him an effective negotiator and a calming presence guiding the Hawks’ organization.
But standing before reporters in April instead of June for the second consecutive season, with the Hawks coming off a miserable, lifeless four-game sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators, Bowman didn’t mince words Saturday.
‘‘I’m completely disappointed,’’ Bowman said in a rare prepared opening remark. ‘‘It’s unacceptable to be where we are today. 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.’’
It was a common theme as the Hawks gathered one last time before scattering for the summer and tried in vain to explain how a 50-victory regular season evaporated in four dreadful games against the lowest-seeded playoff team in the Western Conference.
Patrick Kane said it was ‘‘the worst feeling we’ve had after any season.’’ Niklas Hjalmarsson called it ‘‘kind of embarrassing.’’ Corey Crawford said, ‘‘We just weren’t the same team.’’ Brian Campbell said the Hawks ‘‘were stuck in regular-season mode.’’ Duncan Keith said the Hawks had no ‘‘bite’’ and Brent Seabrook said they had no ‘‘pushback.’’ Nine players, plus Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville, used the word ‘‘disappointing.’’
Bowman said Quenneville would be back as coach, but that was the only assurance he would give. Player personnel and the rest of the coaching staff are up for evaluation.
‘‘It’s time right now to take a look in the mirror and face facts,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘And when you do that, you look at accountability, and that starts with me. I need to be better, there’s no doubt about it. I’m going to take a look at all things. I can promise you I will be better. . . . Joel and I are going to work together to make sure this never happens again.’’
The question is, what can they do? The Hawks are right up against the salary cap and are hamstrung by no-movement clauses in the contracts of their eight most expensive players, which total more than $53 million. Will a core player be asked to waive his no-movement clause and be traded? Will there be changes on the coaching staff? Will there be another infusion of youth in an attempt to increase speed and energy among the defensemen? Will the Hawks have to rethink their system to regain their puck-possession edge in an increasingly fast league?
Bowman and Quenneville offered plenty of soundbites but few specifics. But they have five long months — more time than they expected or wanted — to figure it out before training camp opens in September.
‘‘There’s been anger, frustration, disappointment,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I guess anger is probably as good a word [to] express where we’re at and how I feel.’’
Quenneville lamented the Hawks’ passive nature during the season, saying they didn’t find ‘‘the all-out button.’’ Bowman and most of the players agreed, but everyone was at a loss to explain the lack of intensity against the Predators.
But when he was asked whether some of the veteran players are getting complacent and have lost their hunger after winning multiple Stanley Cups, Bowman bristled.
‘‘I don’t know if I buy that,’’ he said. ‘‘And if that’s the case, then we’re going to get rid of those people. Because the only reason we come here is to win the Cup.’’
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.