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GM Stan Bowman says Blackhawks heading in ‘right direction’

The trade deadline came and went, and for the second year in a row, the Blackhawks have nothing to show from it.

Up until the deadline at 2 p.m. Monday, general manager Stan Bowman was talking to several teams about potential scenarios. But he wasn’t interested in wasting a valuable prospect or pick for a rental player who would’ve left in free agency this summer.

“We’re trying to build back to be an elite team, and this is all part of the process,” Bowman said. “To make a trade just to say you made a trade, that’s never been a great strategy for long-term success.”

Ultimately, the only news of the day was that the Hawks activated goalie Corey Crawford from injured reserve after he missed two months with a concussion and sent Collin Delia to Rockford.

General manager Stan Bowman believes the Blackhawks are moving in the "right direction." | Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

The inactivity says a lot about the state of the Hawks.

Bowman said the Hawks are heading in the right direction, though they still have a lot of problems. Their defense, which has allowed a league-high 236 goals, is still struggling. They also have the worst penalty kill in the NHL.

Asked how long it would take for the Hawks to contend for the Stanley Cup, Bowman was vague.

“The goal is to keep progressing year to year, so a year from now we want to be in a better spot than we are now,” he said. “Where that is in the standings, I don’t know. We’re not trying to map it out that precisely other than to say we want to be in a better spot than we are today, and the same thing for the year after that.”

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After missing the postseason last year, the Hawks are hanging by a thread in the playoff race. Entering last weekend, the Hawks were one point out of the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Now, they’re five points out.

Even Bowman couldn’t explain what happened to the Hawks, who lost to the Avalanche on Friday and the Stars on Sunday despite playing arguably their best games of the season.

“I really liked the way we responded,” Bowman said. “We played really good. Unfortunately, we didn’t win. But if we play like that down the stretch, I think we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Coach Jeremy Colliton has played a critical role in changing the Hawks’ trajectory this season. Though things got uglier before they got better — the Hawks had the fewest points in the league in December and had an eight-game losing streak — Colliton has been key in bringing the team back into the playoff picture.

His biggest accomplishment has been igniting the Hawks’ power play, which has been converting at a league-best 34.8 percent clip since Jan. 1.

Colliton has revitalized the team and given the players and Bowman a new sense of hope for the future.

“In the last couple months, we’ve seen what a little bit of confidence and belief does,” Bowman said. “It didn’t happen right away, but I think now there’s probably less thinking and just playing on instinct because they’ve been doing things longer. That bodes well for the future. I think we’ve shown even with essentially a very similar roster we’ve gotten better results because we’re executing better.

“If that continues and then we add some new pieces, we think there’s reason for optimism in the coming years.”