John McDonough

John McDonough: Blackhawks don't win any Stanley Cups without Marian Hossa

John McDonough: Blackhawks don't win any Stanley Cups without Marian Hossa

Marian Hossa was clearly a big part of the three Stanley Cups the Chicago Blackhawks won in a six-year period, but would they have won them without him?

Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough doesn’t think so. McDonough was on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast in a 1-on-1 interview with Pat Boyle and discussed Hossa’s legacy, among other topics.

“My feeling is the Chicago Blackhawks do not win a Stanley Cup, let alone three, without Marian Hossa,” McDonough said. “It’s not just because of his performance on the ice. Sometimes culturally it’s just to be in the same locker room with a guy who comports himself professionally, knows how to win, great work ethic, terrific habits. So that’s what we miss most other than being one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met.”

The Blackhawks won their first cup in Hossa’s first year with the team. They also haven’t made the playoffs in the two years since he left.

“The magnitude and the seismic impact that he had on this franchise, really I don’t think anybody was able to calculate, but as soon as he left, we knew there was a gaping hole,” McDonough said.

McDonough said Hossa “changed the face of this franchise” and that he has a future with the team in some capacity.

“We’re gonna make the offer,” McDonough said. “We might have made the offer already. I see Marian Hossa as a part of this franchise for a long, long time.”

Watch more from McDonough on Hossa in the video above.

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John McDonough on Corey Crawford and turning the page on 'painful' season

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NBC Sports Chicago

John McDonough on Corey Crawford and turning the page on 'painful' season

The 2017-18 NHL season was one to forget in Chicago.

So many things went wrong for the Blackhawks, who missed out on the playoffs for the first time in a decade and finished in the basement of the Central Division one year after securing the No. 1 seed.

The Blackhawks have had time to reflect on all that. Maybe too much time.

“This year we tried to turn the page as quickly as we possibly could,” Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said Thursday following the 2019 Winter Classic press conference. “It wasn’t fun. When it was March and it was apparent that we weren’t going to make the playoffs, it was painful."

In fact, McDonough actually interrupted the reporter — me — to emphasize how quickly he wanted to move on from last season as opposed to dissecting why things went sideways. And rightfully so. It wasn’t fun for anybody, especially when the organization and city of Chicago experienced three Stanley Cups and five Conference Final appearances over the previous nine seasons.

"We’ve been dancing on the clouds for nine years and living in a pretty good place," McDonough said. "Maybe this was a wake-up call that needed to happen. Maybe this was sobering.

"So, internally, the message has been sent. We’ve discussed it at a regular basis. I have faith and confidence in all of these people. We’re in the results business. That’s where we are. And expectations from the day that Rocky [Wirtz] took over are very high, realistic expectations. The expectations for me this year is that this is a playoff team and put yourself in a position to make a run.”

This upcoming campaign is different. It's hard to remember the last time there was this much intrigue going into training camp.

More than anything, it’s a chance to rid the bad taste from their mouth and start with a clean slate.

“I have a good feeling,” McDonough said. “I have to be very positive, I have to be optimistic. It was a disappointing season last year. I recognize that. We are on it. We have addressed everything internally. We know our place in the city and where we are. We set the bar very, very high. This is a new chapter. Every single season is different and we look forward to teeing it up in October.”

Before October rolls around, there’s still a huge question mark surrounding Corey Crawford, who last played in an NHL game on Dec. 23, 2017 and has been sidelined since with a mysterious upper-body injury. McDonough said he's not exactly sure what Crawford's status is, but admitted, "I know he's been working out on a regular basis, so we'll find out shortly."

Training camp starts in eight days and the Blackhawks expect their starting goaltender to be there. 

“We do, we do," McDonough said. "We’re hoping that he’s ready for training camp and that starts in a few weeks and be ready to go when the season starts.”

Never have the Blackhawks needed Crawford more than this season. He masks a majority of their flaws and is good enough to keep his team in the playoff hunt when they aren't playing their best. 

The Blackhawks were one point out of the final wild-card spot before Crawford went down, but had two games in hand, meaning they were certainly right in the mix. That's encouraging if you're trying to find some positives, because that was essentially the beginning of their spiral.

But McDonough wouldn't use that as an excuse then, he isn't now and he won't going forward. The Blackhawks must rely on each other to bounce back, with or without No. 50 between the pipes.

“I don’t take any solace in that whatsoever," McDonough said of the Blackhawks being in the playoff picture when Crawford was healthy. "One of the things that gets overblown to me is they talk about our core players and they will name four or five or six guys. To me, every single guy on your roster is part of the core: the 13th forward, the 7th defenseman, or the backup goalie or the head coach or your assistant coach; every single one of them are part of the core. And I think we have to recognize that we’re going to need contributions from everybody.

"So it’s easy to point to four or five guys and say, ‘they didn’t get the job done, they need to be better;’ we need everybody to be better. I need to be better, Stan [Bowman] needs to be better, Joel [Quenneville] needs to be better.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 2017-18 season

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 2017-18 season

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks season in 2017-18 after finishing with a 33-39-10 record and 76 points:

1. Corey Crawford's injury

There are many different reasons as to why the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade, none more obvious than the injury to one of the best goaltenders in the league. There's no way around it.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts before essentially being shut down for the rest of the season after Christmas. To the Blackhawks' credit, they never used that as an excuse but the numbers clearly don't lie.

Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass and J-F Berube each held their own for a while but could never seize the opportunity down the stretch. Collin Delia looked sharp in his NHL debut, and heck, even 36-year-old Scott Foster managed to find himself between the pipes, a fitting event given how the season unfolded in goal.

Stan Bowman said Friday on NBC Sports Chicago that "we don't have any concerns" about Crawford's long-term health and "there's no reason for us not to be expecting him back," echoing team president John McDonough's comments from a few days earlier.

That's a great sign, because Crawford has masked most of the team's deficiencies since they won their last Stanley Cup in 2015.

In a way, his injury could be viewed as a silver lining because it magnified the real flaws and gave the Blackhawks an opportunity to know exactly what they need to address in the offseason while expecting their Vezina-type netminder to be 100 percent healthy and return to top form.

2. The next generation

If there's one positive to take away from the 2017-18 season, it's the emergence of the younger players like Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz, all three of whom established important roles with the club going forward.

DeBrincat finished with a team-best 28 goals and ranked tied for second in points (52). Only Patrick Kane (76) had more points than Schmaltz (52). And Hinostroza was fifth in points-per-game (0.50).

Bowman singled out DeBrincat and Schmaltz on Friday as "the next guys we're going to really commit a lot of dollars to," reaffirming the desire to get younger and build from within. Add top prospect Dylan Sikura into the mix up front, and the Blackhawks have speed and youth sprinkled all over their roster.

This is the future and the present. The second wave of talent is here.

3. Special teams disaster

The Blackhawks usually have a decent special teams unit under Joel Quenneville. If it's not the power play, it's the penalty kill and if it's not the penalty kill, it's the power play. This season was rough in both departments.

They finished with a 16.0 percent success rate with the man advantage, which ranked 28th in the league, and a 79.2 percent success rate on the penalty kill, which ranked 20th. The former in particular is a staggering number when you look at the core group leading the charge.

Even if the Blackhawks power play was just average, their spot in the standings might look different. But it was a momentum killer all season long, and an area that needs to get better if they want to turn things around quickly.

The penalty kill is fine structurally and will probably have a bounce-back season.

As late as Dec. 14, 2017, they were ranked fifth with an 83.8 percentage — nine days before Crawford played his final game of the season. So that unraveled quickly in large part because of their goaltending. Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding someone other than Jonathan Toews to take a defensive faceoff.

It's difficult to stay above water and in the playoff race when you're special teams is dragging you down from both ends, and that's exactly what happened for the Blackhawks.

4. An inexperienced blue line

The Blackhawks gave up the fifth-most high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 play this season, and a lot of that had to do with inexperience on the back end.

After Duncan Keith (34) and Brent Seabrook (32), there was a significant drop-off: Before this season, Jan Rutta hadn't played in an NHL game, Erik Gustafsson had 41 games under his belt, Gustav Forsling had 38, Jordan Oesterle had 25 and Carl Dahlstrom and Blake Hillman each were among the defensive crop that made their debuts. 

It made for some heavy growing pains, ones that you hope will pay off in the long term and serve as learning lessons for next season and beyond.

Offensively, the production wasn't there, either. 

The Blackhawks had only 18 goals from their defensemen in the first 57 games, with Keith scoring only two all season long. It put a ton of pressure on the forwards to score.

That's a position that should be No. 1 on the offseason priority list, and Bowman said "it's possible" the Blackhawks will explore landing a Top 4 defenseman. But they won't mortgage the future to do it.

"The things that would factor into those decisions would be where the salary cap is at, how much room you have and probably the biggest thing is just the term," he said.

5. Patrick Sharp's farewell

When Sharp re-signed with the Blackhawks last offseason, he made it clear he wasn't simply coming back for a victory lap. He wanted to contribute to a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations.

Unfortunately for the reasons listed above, plans changed and it turned out to be exactly that.

But his send-off in his final game at United Center was a perfect way to go out given the circumstances, allowing the city of Chicago to celebrate what he did for the organization and community: Three Stanley Cups, a four-time 30-goal scorer and alternate captain.

No. 10 will forever be known as playing an integral part of putting the Blackhawks back on the map.