No general manager was more active this past summer than Stan Bowman, who made six trades and several free-agent signings, one of which was Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner. He made it a priority to shore up what ailed the Blackhawks last season.
But the performance and results didn't translate right away.
The Blackhawks stumbled out of the gates with a 4-7-3 record, going on a three-game losing streak and four-game skid before the calendar even flipped to November. Since then, the Blackhawks have showed flashes, but the inconsistencies remain at the halfway point of the 2019-20 season.
"I think we've played our best hockey, probably over the last couple weeks, looking at our record," Bowman said after morning skate on Tuesday in his first media session since training camp. "It did take a little bit of time to get everything together. We did have spurts of it earlier in the year where we played well, but we couldn't sustain it enough probably to get enough wins on the board. We've played better lately and now we've got to build on that, so consistency is probably the hardest part to nail for this team so far."
The most consistent part of the Blackhawks' game has been the goaltending tandem between Corey Crawford and Lehner, both of whom have given their team a chance to win every night. The younger players, such as Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach, are beginning to take on a larger role also and the wealth is starting to spread in the scoring department.
Those are positive developments and it's resulted in the Blackhawks picking up four wins in their last five games and six of their last eight. But they need to continue building on that because the Blackhawks remain on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture.
"We're right there," Bowman said on whether he believes this is still a playoff-caliber team. "We're a little bit behind the pack — a couple points — but it's a pretty tight pack that are fighting to get into that spot. It's been basically half a season. We've got a lot of hockey left."
The Blackhawks have been battered by injuries this season, but Bowman didn't use that as an excuse because every team goes through their fair share of them over the course of the season. What he does have the luxury of is cap space — more than $11 million — after placing Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook on long-term injured reserve with season-ending injuries.
Bowman acknowledged he has financial flexibility for the rest of the season but admitted it's too early to predict how he may use it because the trade deadline isn't until Feb. 24. The course of action is likely going to depend on how the Blackhawks play leading up to it and where they're at in the standings.
"We've had a pretty good stretch recently," Bowman said. "We've got to continue to do that. If we're able to build on the way we've played the last few weeks I think we'll put ourselves in a nice spot over the next month. The next five or six weeks are pivotal leading into that stretch run starting, really, at the end of February until April is when the league takes another level up.
"We're in that next phase but the level's only going to get harder. The goal is to put ourselves in a good position between now and then and then evaluate what options we have to improve our team. So it's a little premature to say what our moves are going to be down the road. Those are hard to handicap. The focus right now is to just stay in the present and look where we are and build on these next few games and keep going."
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