CHICAGO — Stan Bowman has a new job title and the same goal to set the Blackhawks back on a championship course. He insists no one is hungrier than he is to see it happen.
“I’m very determined, very focused and extremely competitive,” Bowman said Friday. “The challenge is what’s exciting to me, the challenge of building something. Honestly, that’s even more fun sometimes than the maintaining of it.”
Bowman has plenty of work to do as he tries to get the Blackhawks back to where they were a few years ago, when they won three Stanley Cups between 2010 and 2015. The Blackhawks gave him a new title this week, elevating him to president of hockey operations as part of a front-office makeover.
Danny Wirtz — chairman Rocky Wirtz’s son — became CEO after serving as interim president following the firing of John McDonough in April. Jaime Faulkner was hired as president of business operations.
Bowman remains the general manager, though he didn’t rule out hiring one to work under him in the future. For now, he wants to see how the new arrangement plays out.
“That’s something that I guess we’ll look into in time, but for right now, I think we’re just sort of at the beginning stage of this next phase,” he said. “That’s something I’m thrilled about.”
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. But they got knocked out in the first round the next two years and missed the playoffs in 2018 and 2019. They would have made it a hat trick if not for the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago got in when the NHL expanded the field to 24. The Blackhawks beat the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round before getting eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights. But they have been in a challenging spot the past few years, trying to stay competitive while developing young players and managing a difficult salary-cap situation.
The Blackhawks opted not to re-sign veteran goaltender Corey Crawford, now with New Jersey. Remaining core players Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are 32, and Duncan Keith is 37.
But Chicago has several young forwards, from rookies Dominik Kubalik and Kirby Dach to Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, as well as promising 20-year-old defenseman Adam Boqvist. Kubalik scored 30 goals as a rookie and finished third on the team in scoring behind Kane and Toews with 46 points.
“We want to develop young players so they can continue to take steps forward in the coming years,” Bowman said. “The way the team looks is probably going to be the biggest benchmark for how we’re doing because we need to have more young faces join that group.”
Bowman wasn’t setting any timelines. The Blackhawks clearly have a way to go before they challenge for another Cup.
One immediate issue is a contract for Strome. A restricted free agent, Strome had 12 goals and 26 assists in 58 games last season. He has 105 points (36 goals, 69 assists) over parts of five seasons with Arizona and Chicago.
“We have had conversations with his agent, ongoing discussions,” Bowman said. “I’m always optimistic that we’ll get something done.”
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