Blackhawks president says 2015-16 was ‘extremely difficult’

For Chicago Blackhawks president John McDonough, getting knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round was just one reason that the 2015-16 season was “the most difficult” of his career.

In an interview with The Chicago Tribune Friday, the Blackhawks executive talked about the Andrew Shaw trade, being eliminated by the St. Louis Blues after stocking up at the trade deadline, and how the accusation of sexual assault against Patrick Kane — an allegation later dismissed without charges — affected the organization.

“Extremely, extremely difficult. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t say that. We wear all of this. We take this personally,” McDonough said of the Kane incident in which the star player was accused last August of assaulting a woman in his Buffalo home. “You learn a lot about yourself, human nature, about other people. I’ve been doing this since 1980. It’s probably been the most difficult year of my career.”

In the interview, McDonough referenced a card he was given at Kane’s grandfather’s funeral from February of 2014.

“I carry this every day,” he said. “I’ll never forget the message every time he’d see Patrick, he would say, ‘Be good,’ which is on the card. … Look, we don’t always live up to this.”

The Blackhawks were defeated in the 2016 postseason by their division rival in the Blues in seven games. Prior to the playoffs, they acquired Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to give the team a push for another Final appearance.

“We got beat, period,” said McDonough. “You can talk about [Brent] Seabrook hitting two posts [in Game 7], but we got beat. We had the plan to acquire Fleischmann and Ladd and Weise, and when you do that, of course you think you’re going to the finals because that always had been the script. So it was a bit of a culture shock.”

In their annual purging of contracts in an attempt to stay competitive and under the salary cap, the Hawks had to offload forward Andrew Shaw, who was suspended in the playoffs for uttering a homophobic slur and later traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL entry draft.

“That was a tough one for a lot of reasons,” McDonough said. “He’s a wonderful young man.

“When you have a finite amount of money to spend, you have to play the futures. What is this roster going to look like, not only in 2016-17 but 2017-18 and 2018-19? I’m really proud of Stan [Bowman] because he’s not afraid to make the tough decisions. He’s very thorough and he gets a lot of information from a lot of people and he will nest with it for a while and then say, ‘Here’s what I think we have to do in the best interest of the Blackhawks, and it’s not based on personal feelings.”

On Saturday, the team hosted its annual Blackhawks Convention in which coaches Joel Quenneville, Kevin Dineen and Mike Kitchen reflected back on 2015-16.

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