Update: The Chicago Blackhawks were able to win a hockey game on Wednesday, December 12th 2018 when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The also went 1 for 2 on the power play. It is Christmas time, miracles can happen after all!
The decision to fire Blackhawks’ head coach Joel Quenneville didn’t seem to make a lot of sense when it happened. The eternal optimists would lead you to believe the once thriving, but aging core just needed a shake-up, a new voice behind the bench. Maybe things were stagnant with Coach Q after ten years in Chicago. That could make sense…right?
Jeremy Colliton replaced Quenneville on November 6th, and it has been anything but smooth sailing since. Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman has lead us to believe that Colliton is the guy, the permanent replacement as head coach in Chicago, not some sort of nonsensical Willie D-like hire in Los Angeles.
Jeremy Colliton is young. He’s 33-years-old. He actually played with Brent Seabrook on team Canada at the 2005 World Juniors. After a meager 57 game NHL career, he ventured down the coaching route at an expedited rate. Four seasons coaching tier-2 Mora IK in the Swedish League and one full season coaching the Blackhawk’s AHL affiliate in Rockford was all it took to take the job of the second-winningest coach in NHL history.
In total, just five years of coaching and Colliton found himself in the NHL, which is exceptional!
Well, we can nitpick whether he was ready for the job or the right person for the job right now, but instead, let’s look at his first month as an NHL head coach!
Since the November 6th hiring (or firing depending on how you look at it), the Blackhawks are at an abysmal 3-12-2.
Normally, when a coach is fired, the team is in such a rut that any new direction or shake-up results in a win right off the hop. For Chicago, it took their fourth game to get Colliton his first NHL win, and that was against the lowly St. Louis Blues!
Things have not been positive as of late either. On Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens handed the Blackhawks their seventh loss in a row, and their schedule does not get any easier going into Christmas. Playing Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, San Jose and Nashville, the Hawks’ struggles will likely continue.
It is terrible. Dead last in the league at a miserable 11.3%. Since Colliton’s first game on November 8th, the Blackhawks have scored FOUR power play goals on 47 opportunities.
So under the new guy in Chicago, the power play is working at 8.5%
Sunday night vs. Montreal was the really troublesome game. Chicago had eight power plays. Now there is a silver lining here – they scored on one of those chances.
But the Blackhawks spent 14:58 of that game on the power play. A quarter of the game. And they lost.
Second worst in the league. 120 goals against, sandwiched between the Ottawa Senators, who are barely a functioning NHL team with 125 goals against and the young as hell Vancouver Canucks, with a goaltender and defensive core of warm bodies who have shockingly allowed only 109 goals against this season.
One last statistic to help outline just how bad it has been for the the Blackhawks as of late, they have only held a lead for 45 seconds since November 18th.
It never seemed like coaching was the problem in Chicago. The team iced this season was not a contender. It was a hodge-podge of an aging and expensive core, some cheap and easy UFA signings, and some suspect goaltending, mainly Corey Crawford still recovering from a concussion and vertigo. Did Stan Bowman know going into the season this was Coach Q’s final kick at the can? Rumours abound for the past few seasons of a strained and tough relationship between the two in Chicago.
Usually, when a coach is fired, the players are eager for a change of pace and direction, a new voice who can help guide them in the right direction. When Joel Quenneville was relieved of his duties, the Blackhawks seemed heartbroken. Patrick Kane wondered if there was anything else he could have done to prevent it, like watching his parents announce a divorce.
On another note, I feel bad for Jeremy Colliton. A young, intelligent coach who played the game at all levels and can relate and communicate with the modern, younger player of today. As Dave wrote about earlier this season, the role of today’s modern NHL coach is a lot less of a pain and suffering drill sergeant role than it had been ten years ago. Now it is a role that requires the ability to communicate and work constructively with players. Before his start in the NHL, Colliton had garnered a positive reputation from his meaningful but brief rise through the coaching ranks.
If this season in Chicago is a failure, if the team doesn’t respond well to him (even under the questionable circumstances he was brought in under), he may lose that reputation. Once you lose that reputation, you’re stuck with that “Dallas Eakins” label for the rest of your career. A successful forward thinking minor league coach on the right path, but who gets saddled with a struggling organization.
You want to see the younger minds in the game like Colliton succeed. But I don’t see it happening in Chicago, and I hope he can salvage the season and his reputation.