The Stanley Cup playoffs begin this week and the Blackhawks won't be participating for the second straight season after doing so in the previous nine years. And it doesn't feel right in Chicago, a city that has been so accustomed to watching their team play into May and June.
But a lot happened in the 2018-19 campaign, which featured a mid-season coaching change from the second winningest NHL coach of all-time in Joel Quenneville to 33-year-old rookie head coach Jeremy Colliton. The Blackhawks made progress over the course of the season, but there's still a lot of work to be done both roster-wise and on the ice.
The Blackhawks had their end of the season press conference on Sunday at the United Center and the mood around the room was disappointment that they won't be playing in the postseason, but optimism about being able to bounce back next season.
Here are the hightlights from the exit interviews:
General manager Stan Bowman:
"We're disappointed we're not playing in the playoffs. That's why we do this. That's the reason these guys come and do their best to put our team in the position. We came up a little bit short this year. But the feeling is much different now than it was a year ago. I think we have a clear path forward of how we're going to be better next year, and just reflecting back on this season there's been a lot of things that's been happening with the new coach coming in and our team getting adjusted to that. It took some time but when you look at the last 50 games we were playing at about a 100-point pace. That's a pretty good chunk of the schedule. It's not like a 10 or 12-game segment where we got hot.
"I think for the last 50 games we were playing like a team that could contend for the division title but we had a lot of ground to make up. The goal now is to build on that. We showed progress from a year ago until today and we expect progress again going forward. Obviously, we look at in a couple year horizon and like last year was sort of the low point we're building to where we are now and next year we expect to be even higher. We're on the right path and there's a lot of things to be excited about and some other things we need to improve and that's our job between now and training camp."
Head coach Jeremy Colliton:
"Definitely feel better about how the team was playing at the end as opposed to the beginning. And I think that ultimately, we want to win, we want to get into the playoffs, we want to still be playing, it’s a disappointment to not be. We thought we were on our way and had a chance, but I think ultimately the progression — we got better, and we got some things to build on going into next season. We will continue to make progress, but we’re not starting from scratch and that’s exciting.
"Got an opportunity to build relationships with all these guys and they know me and I know them and just think it will allow us — we need to have a much better start. Ultimately, it was too big a hole to crawl out of where we were in December. But I think we positioned ourselves with a lot of work in the offseason here and in training camp to have a much better beginning to the season."
Captain Jonathan Toews:
"You want to have an opportunistic outlook as to where things are going. But you've got to be realistic too as far as where you have to grow, where you have to get better. At the end of the day, we were in the hunt. We had a chance to get points to make the playoffs. It's easy to say what happened earlier in the season, if that would have been any different, we'd be sitting in a different spot right now. But we're not satisfied one way or another. You have to learn what you can from the situation and let it be that motivating factor that makes you better next year."
"Ups and downs. I thought we had a few good stretches there. But at the beginning of the season, that long, what, probably 21 games with maybe three wins was too much to dig ourselves out of. I think if we win more games there we're maybe not doing this today and we're maybe playing a game in a few days, so tough to say. I thought after All-Star break we did pretty well but we're still on the outside looking in and we gotta be better."
"The way we played the last 50 or so games, a lot of confidence in the room, lot of confidence in management and coaches about bringing back a good, solid team next year. And disappointing finish, for sure. But I definitely think there’s a lot of hope and belief in the room that we can turn it around."
"It’s a lost season. We want to be competing for Stanley Cups every year and it’s something we’ve done a lot in our career. I know it’s not going to happen every year, but why can’t it? We want to get back there. We want to get back to competing for a Stanley Cup and we want to win more. I’ve talked about this at length in years past, anytime you lose out, you hear every once in a while when a guy retires he’s got one Cup. I think when you win a Cup, the desire burns that much more. You just want it that much more.
"Playing in those meaningful games, I’ve also talked about the fact that the regular season’s the regular season. It’s obviously important because you’ve got to make the playoffs. But I think as hockey players and professional athletes, it’s the playoffs that really mean the most to us and having that opportunity to play in those big games and visiting buildings where everybody’s screaming at you, and here at the United Center when it’s rocking and roaring and they’re screaming at everybody else, that’s the fun hockey to play."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.