By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
This season for the Chicago Blackhawks had an inevitable sense of conclusion surrounding it from the beginning.
For a short while to begin the season the new talent we highlighted in our season preview seemed to do the trick, coupled with some key play from renewed veterans like Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks had a first couple weeks of the season that thrilled with repeated overtime wins.
Things have since fell apart and as we wondered if the Hawks could get straightened out from a current five game losing streak, including an 0-3 road trip in Canada, the wheels got put in motion to make the move that will define the 2018-19 season for the Men in Red as a transitional year and the end of an era.
The dismissal of head coach Joel Quenneville only 15 games (6-6-3) into his 11th season at the helm of the Hawks was a clean rip away from one of the most historic runs in franchise history, but it was like finally getting off a band-aid that took three years to separate from the skin.
That three years marked the last time the Hawks were the best team in the NHL and the latest run of losses made it clear, according to the front office, that the time was now to make a change. Jeremy Colliton, a 33-year-old who most recently coached the Hawks farm club in Rockford, takes over as the 38th coach in Hawks history.
Joel Quenneville as Hawks Coach
- Regular Season: 452-249-96
- Playoffs: 76-52
Many experts and analysts, including yours truly, predicted that the Hawks roster was not built for long-term success but instead conformed for one last run at the Stanley Cup.
While Coach Q had his struggles with general manager Stan Bowman, Quenneville brought accountability and professionalism to the Hawks from the start, emboldened by his previous success in St. Louis and Colorado, where he was an assistant coach on the 1996 Stanley Cup winner.
In his run with the Hawks the hands of fate guided him to gain two franchise-defining young stars in Toews and Patrick Kane along with a handful of other Hawks (Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Crawford) who rose to the level of all-time performers. Behind their talents and his leadership, Coach Q became the mastermind behind three Stanley Cup runs that completely transformed a franchise that had approached rock bottom levels in the decade leading to his hiring in 2008.
Quenneville is out along with his assistants Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson in favor of Colliton and new assistant Barry Smith. Colliton brings with him experience as a player, though he only played a few dozen games in the NHL. Colliton should bring the energy that would come with being the now youngest coach in the NHL.
It was that energy along with a specific and meticulous approach to the game of hockey that impressed Hawks brass as he led the Ice Hogs of Rockford to a 40-28-4 record in the AHL last season along with a berth in that league’s Western Conference Finals.
Colliton is described as a good communicator, a fan of analytics and a great worker with young players who produces teams that play with energy. This may very well be the right coach that the Hawks need today, but the roster Colliton has to handle still needs a major overhaul.
Colliton may have an advantage over the 60-year-old Coach Q in reaching the Hawks’ newest players but he’ll also have to reach the aging veterans in the locker room to carry out his message and he’ll have to negotiate well the parsing of playing time between more recent draft picks and acquisitions with the long-time stalwarts on the roster.
Pressure Now on Bowman
Something’s obviously been missing from the Hawks since the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals — the blame for the Hawks’ struggles over the past three seasons are not just at the feet of the now former coach, another large piece of the puzzle belongs to GM Bowman whose moves in the past couple offseasons can certainly be questioned in the wake of Chicago missing the playoffs last year.
Bowman overall has mishandled the Hawks salary cap spacing, trading away important young pieces, bringing back middle of the road veterans and giving even older veterans long term deals.
As hot as the coach’s seat has been this season now all that warmth and more transfers to the seat of the GM. It is up to Bowman to bring the Hawks back to respectability with the infusion of young skillful players to boost the strategy of his young coach
The question is now will the new Hawks braintrust be given a fair amount of time to turn it around or will Bowman be the next casualty of a rebuilding era. The Hawks have a lot of work to do and a lot of ground to cover as it will be a long road back to seeing championship level hockey played at the United Center.
*To Captain Jonathan Toews for scoring career goal number 300 in last Saturday’s loss at Calgary. What an accomplishment for this future Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Most Goals in Hawks Franchise History
- Bobby Hull (604)
- Stan Mikita (541)
- Steve Larmer (466)
- Denis Savard (377)
- Patrick Kane (323)
- Jonathan Toews (300)
- Dennis Hull (298)
*To Patrick Kane for being named the NHL Third Star for the month of October with 11 goals and 8 assists for a total of 19 points.
- Goals: Patrick Kane (11)
- Assists: Patrick Kane (8)
- Points: Patrick Kane (19)
- Penalty Minutes: Brent Seabrook (15)
- Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.92)
- Goals Per Game: 3.07 (17th in NHL)
- Goals Against: 3.73 (27th in NHL)
- Power Play Percentage: 14.0 (27th in NHL)
The Road Ahead (all times central)
- Thursday vs. Carolina Hurricanes — 7:30 pm
- Saturday at Philadelphia Flyers — 12 pm
- Monday at Carolina Hurricanes — 6 pm
- 11/14 vs. St. Louis Blues — 7 pm
- 11/16 vs. Los Angeles Kings — 7:30 pm
- 11/18 vs. Minnesota Wild — 5 pm
- 11/21 @ Washington Capitals — 6 pm
- 11/23 at Tampa Bay Lightning — 6:30 pm
- 11/24 at Florida Panthers — 6 pm
Sidney Brown covers the Chicago Blackhawks for WARR