CHICAGO -- The Blackhawks have failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons and their closest rivals, the Blues, are on the cusp of winning their first Stanley Cup.
But with the No. 3 pick in the draft and roughly $20 million in salary-cap space, according to capfriendly.com, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman is decidedly optimistic about the future.
Bowman sat down with the Chicago Tribune for a 30-minute interview to discuss a variety of topics. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Chicago Tribune: Two months after the season is over, what different conclusions have you perhaps realized now?
Stan Bowman: I'm not sure there's any big revelations. There was a natural transition period with a new coach coming in, and it took awhile to get going with the way we wanted to play successfully under Jeremy (Colliton). Once we did that I thought we got our footing.
We're an offensive team so we don't want to try to change our game and suddenly have trouble scoring. But we need to shore up the areas where we struggled. The penalty kill was one and goals against, those are the two things. That hasn't changed from our initial assessment. We've had some time to figure out how we're going to do that.
(New assistant coach Marc Crawford) explained how (his former team, the Senators) made some big changes in mid-November and from that point on they were top five in the league in the penalty kill, which was still a 60-game stretch. He's going to help us. That's on the tactical side. There's also personnel.
CT: How is free agency setting up to be different from the last few seasons?
SB: Well, the biggest difference would be we don't have any financial restraints by the salary cap. Last year and the year before we were in a different position with very little money to spend. Doesn't necessarily mean we're going to sign the highest-priced free agents. We can have conversations with them and we can see if they fit right.
In talking to Jeremy, we're going to try to get players he thinks are going to help push our team the right way in terms of being a good two-way team. We were tilted to the offense last year, and ideally we'd like to have more balance to not just try to outscore the other team. We have some really high-powered offensive players. So we're probably trying to find the right guy to come in to continue the success we had, to be able to play that way but also to have a two-way component to their game. To be able to be utilized in penalty-kill situations, guys we feel confident can add to that. We're trying to shore up our weaknesses without taking away what we were good at.