Stan Bowman walked to the lectern with a note in his hand, a few things written down. It was unusual for Bowman to do so; his opening remarks are usually off the cuff.
But there was nothing usual about Saturday, a day the Blackhawks should have been hosting the Nashville Predators for Game 5 of their first-round series. Instead, the Blackhawks general manager was leading off the team's locker-cleanout day. It was much earlier than expected and he was predictably angry about it.
"I'm completely, completely disappointed. It's unacceptable to be where we are today," Bowman said. "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. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that's unacceptable."
Bowman used the word "unacceptable" numerous times, and understandably so. After a great regular season, the Blackhawks crashed and burned in the first round. Considering how poorly it went, Bowman said there will absolutely be changes this offseason.
"There will be change moving forward; change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we're going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum. But I can promise you we need to be better," Bowman said.
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There has been plenty of change for the Blackhawks in every offseason, but usually that's been due to cap. This being due to poor performance is something they haven't dealt with in a while.
"I understand that they're upset. Going out the way we did was not acceptable and if Stan thinks we need a change, you know, we might need a change," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "He's pretty good at what he's doing, so I guess we'll see what happens over the summer."
So how do you make changes on a team loaded with lengthy contracts, many of which comes no-movement clauses? It can be done, but it's up to finding a team with some cap room and a player who's willing to OK the deal. The Blackhawks have made that work before; in the summer of 2011 they traded Brian Campbell and Campbell's then-sizeable control to the Florida Panthers. But one way or another, be it with different players or a different attitude, the Blackhawks say they need to find what they lacked in these playoffs.
"It seems like Nashville had more bite and more aggression. In the playoffs you have to bring it and we didn't answer," Duncan Keith said. "I know I could've played better and we all could've played better. As a team you have that aggressiveness and energy and bite and pushback. Just seemed like it wasn't there."
One area that won't change is at coach. Bowman said, "Joel [Quenneville] is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach. And Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.
Outside of that, however, it sounds like the Blackhawks will take a thorough look at things this summer, reassess and see what they can do to be better. The Blackhawks thought they were in good shape heading into the playoffs. But their lack of performance there, proved otherwise. Anything they accomplished in the regular season seemed worthless.
There's no doubt the Blackhawks will look long and hard at things this offseason, which came a lot faster than anyone expected.
"I guess anger is probably as good a word you can express with where we're at and how I feel. After the game, you had a sense over the last couple of games and series that it was one of those, whether frustration or whatever word is a negative connotation that jumps out, explains where we're at and how we're feeling," Quenneville said. "Figuring it out is the process now."