Chicago Blackhawks hope coaching change results in playoff spot

It may seem odd to fire the second-winningest coach in NHL history just 15 games into a season, but that’s what the Chicago Blackhawks did after starting the 2018/19 campaign at 6-6-3. Sixty-year-old Joel Quenneville was given his pink slip recently and replaced by Jeremy Colliton, who at the age of 33 now becomes the youngest bench boss in the NHL. Quenneville is considered a legend in Chicago as he led the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup triumphs in 2009/10, 2012/13 and 2014/15. However, the team has been struggling recently and failed to make the playoffs last season.

Quenneville was an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche back in 1996 when the team won the Stanley Cup and then had stints as a head coach with the St. Louis Blues and back in Colorado before joining the Blackhawks in September of 2008. He was originally brought to the Windy City as a pro scout and soon found himself behind the team’s bench. Quenneville spent 10 full seasons as the Blackhawks’ head coach and failed to make the postseason just once, which was last year. As well as hoisting the Stanley Cup three times with the team he also led Chicago to a trio of Central Division titles.

Quenneville spent 707 games behind the bench during the regular season in Chicago and posted a record of 452-249-96 while going 76-52 in the postseason. His career NHL coaching record stands at 890-532-77-137 with Scotty Bowman being the only man to have more victories and Al Arbour being the only one to coach more games. Quenneville’s current salary is reportedly $6 million a season, but it’s doubtful he’ll be out of work for long. His replacement Jeremy Colliton played just 57 games in the NHL and kicked off his coaching career with Mora IK in Sweden in 2014.

The Blackhawks saw potential in him and hired Colliton to coach their Rockford IceHogs AHL farm team last season. Chicago GM Stan Bowman liked the way Colliton communicated with his AHL players and is now hoping he can do the same at the NHL level. He’ll be coaching several players that are older than him, but the Blackhawks also have 15 players under the age of 30 on their current roster. He won’t be working with former Chicago assistant coaches Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson though as they were both fired along with Quenneville.

The Blackhawks have some fine talent in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Artem Anisimov, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but goaltenders Cam Ward and Corey Crawford are on the downside of their careers at the respective ages of 34 and 33. It’s now up to Colliton to get his roster to play the way it’s capable of or the Blackhawks could miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Many coaching changes bring instant dividends, but Chicago lost their first two games with Colliton in charge and as of November 12th were in the basement of the Central Division at 6-8-3 for 15 points and were on a seven-game losing streak.

The Blackhawks need to improve in all areas of the ice if they hope to make the playoffs though and Colliton has his work cut out for him. Their goaltending, defence and and goal scoring are all below par while their penalty-killing and power-play special teams are among the worst in the league. Chicago lost several good young players after their Stanley Cup triumphs since they couldn’t fit them all under their salary cap. They’re now paying the price for that on the ice and should be regretting the trade that saw high-scoring forward Artemi Panarin shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Blackhawk Brandon Saad in June, 2017.

If there is a bright side for the Blackhawks it’s the fact that there’s still over 75 per cent of the NHL season to play and they are only a handful of points out of a playoff spot. The team’s definitely heading in the wrong direction though with seven straight defeats and this will place a ton of pressure on the shoulders of Colliton. With no previous NHL experience, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.

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