Next chapter begins for 'Hawks

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

Stan Bowman can handle having a short summer.

Such is life when you’re the general manager of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, a team that hadn’t been able to lay claim to that title for 49 years until the streak came to an end in the sixth game of the final against the Philadelphia Flyers in June.

“It was very brief, but that’s the way you want it when you’re in professional hockey — you want to have a short summer,” Bowman said in a telephone interview from Chicago on Tuesday. “It seems like just yesterday we were playing in Philadelphia. But it’s a good thing for our guys. They had their fun, they enjoyed the summer but in talking to them, pretty much to a man, they’re ready to play hockey again. That‘s what they love doing. I’m excited about things starting up.”

Not only was it a short summer, but a busy one as well for Bowman.

Due to salary-cap constraints, the Blackhawks were forced to move several key cogs — including playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg — in trades and actually walked away from an arbitration award that saw goalie Antti Niemi become a free agent and sign with the San Jose Sharks.

“I’ve talked to the players who departed and we’ll always have that moment and we’ll walk hand-in-hand as champions, they can’t take that away from us,” said Bowman. “We’ve had to make some moves and now it’s time to move onto the next chapter. It’s part of the business and people recognize that.”

Making some of those moves allowed the Blackhawks to bring in the likes of Viktor Stalberg and Jeremy Morin.

So it’s not all doom and gloom in the Windy City, not in the least.

Let’s not forget the Blackhawks still have a core that includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell.

“There’s a lot been made about the changes we had to do this summer, but we’ve got a lot of players in here who are hungry to capture the Cup themselves because they weren’t here last year,” said Bowman. “They’re motivated more than anybody to participate in all the great fun the other guys have had. They’re going to push the (returning) guys to make sure we are prepared.

“Our coaching staff realizes that it’s never easy coming off a Stanley Cup. They’ve got the challenge of having everybody motivated. Hopefully, you’ll see that we’re a team that’s ready to go from the beginning.“

Don’t expect the Blackhawks to be bogged down by any sort of Stanley Cup hangover either.

“I expect these guys to continue to get better,” said Bowman. “In order to be known over time, you have to do it year after year. With Toews and Kane, they’re 22 years old and any star in the history of the game is better at 23 than they were at 22. I expect these guys to continue to get better. I know how hard they both work and how dedicated they are. They are definitely motivated.”

The Blackhawks also understand they’ll be getting the best effort from each of their opponents in 2010-11 as well.

“That’s a fact, but we saw some of that last year,” said Bowman. “There were high expectations going into last year and as the year went on, we were a team that everybody got up for. So it’s not totally a new thing for us. Now from Game 1 of the season, we’re going to be a measuring stick and our players are aware of that.

“You don’t want to be paralyzed by expectations but you don’t want to run from them either. You acknowledge them, but then you go back to the task at hand.”

Helping the Blackhawks end the lengthy drought was a special moment for Bowman.

“It was a life-long dream of mine,” said Bowman, who was named after Lord Stanley’s famous mug. “I’ve been around the Cup so many times because of my father (Scotty), but it’s never the same when you’re a fan and when you’re involved in it. I’ve worked for the Blackhawks a number of years and we’ve come an awfully long way since I’ve been there.

“There were a lot of years when we weren’t a successful team and it weighs on you and it weighs on the players. It’s very gratifying when you finally reach that pinnacle.”


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