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Blackhawks president says ‘status quo here is unacceptable’

Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough said the playoff loss to Nashville was "unacceptable" and that the club is “reassessing everything.” (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Blackhawks President John McDonough said he doesn’t make recommendations on hockey decisions. That he leaves to general manager Stan Bowman and the hockey operations side.

McDonough said his role is to “hire the best people and empower them to make sure they have clear expectations.”

McDonough couldn’t be more clear in his expectations for next season – things have to change, because the first-round sweep the Hawks suffered at the hands of the Predators was “unacceptable” to McDonough and the organization, McDonough said in an interview Wednesday with the Tribune.

“When you don’t reach your goals, change is imminent and unpleasant but the status quo here is unacceptable and if you really think you’re going to gain ground with the same blueprint that hasn’t worked in the postseason the last few years it’s not realistic,” McDonough said. “Sometimes change is not fun.”

It hasn’t been over the last few days for the Hawks, who have already made changes in firing assistant coach Mike Kitchen and Rockford IceHogs head coach Ted Dent. McDonough said the team is “reassessing everything” and more changes could be on the way, which has created tension over the last week.

McDonough said he was confident Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville would emerge from Kitchen’s firing with a good relationship intact. Quenneville was close with Kitchen, who was Quenneville’s longtime assistant with the Hawks and Blues and played with Quenneville when both were defensemen in the NHL. Multiple sources told the Tribune the firing of Kitchen, who was in charge of the Hawks’ defensemen and penalty kill, didn’t originate with Quenneville, who was upset with the move.

“I think over time it’s something certainly Stan and Joel will work out. It’s not easy,” McDonough said. “I’ve been in situations before where people I’ve been close to have been asked to move on and at some point you distill that and recognize it’s the nature of what we do. Every single day here is difficult.

“I sometimes get concerned that people on the outside think this is the Camelot Blackhawks, that things look so smooth. They really should attend some of our meetings here. We really let it go. I want divergent opinions. I want people to speak their minds and I want them to say things that might go against the grain.”

McDonough said the decision to hire a new assistant will likely be a collaboration between Bowman and Quenneville and not Quenenville making that decision on his own.

“I’m sure Joel will be consulted on that as he should be,” McDonough said. “I’m sure that will be the process in due time.”

McDonough has said even when the Hawks were winning championships, conversations between front office personnel could be “unvarnished and often very thorny,” but that’s how the Hawks have functioned as an organization in good times and how it is when they don’t meet expectations.

Or as McDonough put it: “This is not the ‘Sound of Music.’ This is the heavyweight division. And we all realize we take this very, very seriously. There’s a steely sense of purpose here.”

Overall, McDonough said he hopes this moment of change in the Hawks will get them moving back in a positive direction. There may be difficult moments now, but they are necessary given how the Predators dismantled the team in the playoffs.

“This year, we had 24 good weeks (in the regular season) … and we had one bad week,” McDonough said. “And unfortunately due to the nature of our industry you’re measured by that one bad week.

“As you’re watching these games (in the playoffs), something is going on that I haven’t seen since I’ve been here. We’re in the process of solving it. It’s not a case of overreacting. It’s a real case of urgency — of getting this right.”

Twitter @ChristopherHine