I've added "Colliton" permanently to my spell check in Microsoft Word. While Microsoft didn't recognize "Colliton" as a proper word, I have acknowledged that I will need to type that name a lot for the foreseeable future.
If Stan Bowman gets his way, I will be typing Jeremy Colliton's name for a long time. If I am, there's a good chance that he keeps his job because replacing him for a Hall of Fame coach will be forever on Stan's resume.
It was a weird yesterday. I personally had a lot of different emotions as the day went on and it was amazing to watch the varying degrees of anger and excitement on Twitter since the news broke.
I didn't want to break into this blog right away of what this means for the Hawks for the short-term future and how this team looks with Jeremy Colliton behind the bench.
I wanted to first say thanks for Joel Quenneville for the memories and dedicate that day to him and his accomplishments. You can find that blog HERE
I also wanted to give him that spotlight because (and here we go...) I believe Joel deserved a better fate.
I am not going to pretend that I thought everything was rainbows and sunshine in Chicago over the last few years – it wasn't. However, as I have stated since the summer, IF
the Blackhawks were going to rid themselves of Quenneville to gain a fresh perspective, I believed Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough should have made the decision to relieve both Joel AND Stan Bowman.
Joel has been dealt a bad hand and was doing what he could with it. Stan is the dealer, so let's do that math.
I will say that in the past, I was impressed with how Stan was able to manoeuvre his way through difficult salary cap issues to keep this team competitive. I have been more critical lately though, and that's not just because the wins are harder to come by, but it's the type of moves he's made.
Moving Hjarlmarsson was a difficult decision, but I believe it was the right one. Hammer was wearing down and the Hawks couldn't afford another aging defenceman with those types of miles on his body. It was the return that I believe could have been higher for such a well-regarded defensive defender. Nothing against Connor Murphy, but if the timing of the trade was managed better, I believe you get more.
Stan trading Artemi Panarin was a highly questionable move. I was cautiously optimistic when it happened because on the surface getting Brandon Saad back appeared to be a great thing.
I was listening to Pierre McGuire on the TSN1050 this morning and he was commenting about Mitch Marner being one of the handful of true offensive difference makers in the entire league (also referenced Kane, McDavid, Kucherov) and that's what Panarin was on this team as well.
Once again, if it was cost certainty and they didn't think Panarin would sign, here again, I think the timing was off there as well. Wait another year and watch Panarin rack up 90 points with Kane again, then deal him for a ransom.
Those are just a couple trade examples of some misses by Stan. The problem being, those are BIG misses involving some of the only players with high value that were possible to trade due to age, contract, skill set.
From there, Stan's free agency signings haven't been much better of late. He should probably just hide his phone for the day on July 1st.
He underwhelmed with bringing in Cam Ward (whom I believe was necessary), Brandon Manning (for 2 years) and Chris Kunitz.
If you haven't watched the press conference from yesterday, head over to chicagoblackhawks.com to check it out.
I watched it live and my mood started to gain steam towards frustration and massive concern for this franchise moving forward.
The concern comes from John McDonough and Stan saying they believe this roster is a playoff roster. I can assure you, if the 2018-19 Blackhawks get into the post-season at this point, it may be solely on Jeremy Colliton's fresh voice, not the players on paper.
As we sit today, this team should live in that "bubble" position all year (at best) or they could find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference.
Let's remember, this team has struggled of late, but the holes were very evident early on. And let's keep in mind, outside of the flu, this team has been extremely healthy. What happens if an injury occurs? Their depth is already being tested.
To close this Bowman and Quenneville portion off, it's obvious that Joel was the fall guy for the current state of the Blackhawks.
If his voice and system was getting stale and the Hawks wanted a fresher perspective on the game (which I wouldn't argue), then they should have fired him in the summer and allowed him to find another job at that time. Then again, maybe they were being greedy and didn't want another team to scoop him up that easily.
Anyway, let's move on to Jeremy Colliton. We've spoken in length about him here since his hiring.
I have been a big supporter of his and heard it was always in the plans to have him succeed Joel Quenneville but I don't think anyone thought it would be this soon.
Heck, I'm sure Jeremy was shocked himself. He had one whirlwind of a week; he and his wife welcomed their 3rd child into this world, then gets an NHL head coaching job.
So what does a Jeremy Colliton team look like?
He mentioned yesterday (… and I'm paraphrasing) that he respects Joel but he has to be himself. He will be making changes. What those are, we don't know.
We know that he wants to play with a lot of energy, pace and possession.
Yes! Energy. Pace. I like it. I think the Hawks and some in Rockford can help him out in that department.
However, can he get this team to play team defence? Can he fix the Powerplay? Can he get this team going with a consistent offensive effort?
Those are going to be areas that will be magnified. I have more questions than answers right now and outside of all the anger/sadness of Coach Q being shown the door, this is the fun part – to see what Jeremy can do with this team.
I know you have questions as well. Here are a few in a mini-mailbag ending to this blog:
: What Will Colliton's success/failure look like at years end?
JL: I think Jeremy will be seen as a success if he can improve in some of those areas I mentioned above – team defence, special teams and overall consistent effort. If he's able to get this team to think TEAM-first and playing a competitive and exciting style, I think that's all you can ask for.
: How will Colliton change the team mentality on the forecheck, aggressiveness of the PK (or lack there of), the physicality/hitting (or lack there of), and activation of the dmen of carrying the puck up ice/exiting the zone/zone entries/etc
: Stan, nice of you to stop in.
I think you see this team turn into a menace on the forecheck (to a certain degree). This will include more physicality. Jeremy used a line of Martinsen-T. Sikura-Hayden last year which worked well in his system. They were assertive away from the puck, physical and played a smart game.
The PK has been trending up lately, but they might be more aggressive there. Time will tell on that one.
In regard to dmen exits and zone entries, you might not see too much of a change right off the start until Jeremy sees what he's working with. Those are big, fundamental changes to the system and that shift may take some time.
: I know it's a tangent, but if you could go in depth a bit on what Barry Smith brings and his involvement with Colliton (Colly? Coach C, Youngblood?) in Rockford?
: I like that you're thinking ahead to a nickname for Jeremy, I think if you asked Stan he'd go with JC because he might need him to be his saviour (see what I did there?).
Here's the thing with Barry Smith. He is one of Scotty Bowman's best friends. He caused some issues in 2012 when he ended up on the ice with Joel. There was a big blow up and then Barry disappeared into the abyss.
What Barry was actually doing was visiting prospects in college and in Rockford and acted as a consultant of sorts to them.
Recently, Barry was in Rockford a lot working with Jeremy over the last few years. On what, I don't know? I suspect how to work with specific players and getting the IceHogs to mimic the Hawks playing style.
His presence on the bench after 10+ years with the organizations speaks volumes. The second Q is out of town, he's in. Optically, I don't like it and think it's old school relationships like this that could/has hurt this franchise for a few years now.
: If possible, to explore the difference in coaching philosophy between Q and Colliton - what can we expect?
: I think there will be a lot of similarities and we won't notice too much off the start. Like I mentioned above, it takes a while to make changes to a system and Colliton himself mentioned that as well.
I think overall, Jeremy has a more open approach to the game and will be more open to changing things to mimic success around the league vs. staying with the same system for 10 years.
I also think you will see eventually see some changes in the neutral and defensive zone when the Hawks do not have the puck. Jeremy likes all of his players on the ice to be in sync with each and work more as a unit vs. fall back on a systematic defence like collapse on your goalie. Just something I've noticed.
: What moves can be made going forward that can help now and for the future?
I think the immediate moves will be with players coming and going from Rockford. I think Colliton will make his case to get guys like Dylan Sikura and Victor Ejdsell up in short order.
As for external moves, that's on Stan. If something comes up where he can improve this team, he needs to jump on it.
That's all I can get to today gang.
I think it will be interesting to see how Jeremy handles the ice time - especially with the veterans on this team – he will need the "core" on his side to ease the transition.
Keep an eye on practice today and if any line combos come out. We'll get a first-look into Colliton's brain.
See ya out there,