On Nov. 6, 2018, the Chicago Blackhawks fired three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach Joel Quenneville after a 6-6-3 start. They promoted Jeremy Colliton from their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, to be their new head coach. Exactly three years to the day, the Blackhawks have fired Colliton after a disastrous 1-9-2 start. IceHogs head coach Derek King has been named the interim head coach.
Colliton Never Progressed Behind the Bench
Former general manager Stan Bowman’s hiring of Colliton was puzzling, to begin with. He was replacing a legend in Chicago with a 33-year-old that had just over one season of head coaching experience at the AHL level. Even an experienced head coach would have a hard time filling the void left by a head coach that was tremendously popular with both the fans and players.
Colliton finished his tenure as Blackhawks head coach with an 87-92-26 record. Sure, the roster was never quite as good as we saw during the Stanley Cup runs earlier in the decade, but his teams were victims of many of the same mistakes throughout his three-plus seasons.
The Blackhawks never figured out how to play a complete 60-minute game under Colliton. They would either start fast just to wilt in the third period or not answer the bell and be down multiple goals before they even knew what hit them. His lineup construction always left fans and writers scratching their heads as he never seemed to put players in places to succeed.
Before Bowman was relieved of his duties earlier this month, he put together a team that, on paper, was good enough to make a run for a playoff berth. He added defensemen Seth Jones and Jake McCabe. Then he brought in the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and two-time Stanley Cup winner, Tyler Johnson.
Instead of a better product on the ice, the team has gotten off to the worst start in franchise history. It wasn’t that they were just losing, but that they have looked like a rudderless boat in doing so. If it weren’t for the unfolding sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the team the past two weeks, this move probably would have happened sooner.
Blackhawks Set Eyes to the Future
The 2021-22 season is a loss for the Blackhawks. With everything that has happened on and off the ice, the best thing to do is salvage what you can from the remaining 70 games and look ahead to the future. The team now has an interim general manager and interim head coach. Neither Kyle Davidson nor King figure to be long-term solutions at either position.
“Our on-ice goal remains the same: to build an elite system of hockey – and we have not delivered on that,” Davidson said in an official statement. “The fact is our play and competitiveness must improve. Every game, every shift. Today’s coaching changes are difficult, especially given the incredible personal connections Jeremy and others have made with our players in their development. We appreciate Jeremy’s contributions to the organization over the last three seasons, and we wish him and his family the best.”
Assistant coaches Tomas Mitell and Sheldon Brookbank have both been relieved of their duties as well. King will still have the services of assistants Marc Crawford, Jimmy Waite, Matt Meacham, and Dylan Crawford when he takes over the reins versus the Nashville Predators Sunday night. Anders Sorensen will serve as the IceHogs interim head coach as they host the Grand Rapids Griffins in their home opener later tonight.
The changes in Chicago have been swift and plentiful over the past couple of weeks, and we are just scratching the surface. If there was ever a time for a team to tear it all down and start over, this is it for the Blackhawks.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.