CHICAGO — In just about every way imaginable, new Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton is different than Joel Quenneville.
Just 33-years-old, Colliton is a modern hockey coach who pays close attention to analytics but is short on experience. His message is relentlessly positive and encouraging. Quenneville, 60, on the other hand only paid passing attention to the new numbers and was known to plant players in his hard-to-escape doghouse.
Substantial changes are certainly coming to Chicago’s system in the coming weeks. Anything huge wasn’t readily apparent during Colliton’s Thursday night debut, but there are expected to be new wrinkles for a roster that still has Stanley Cup remnants along with a talent deficit, a lack of depth and severe issues on the blue line.
“I think we’ve got to focus on what we’re doing right now and start doing it a little cleaner, a little sharper,” Colliton said after the Blackhawks’ 4-3 loss to Carolina. “I think we can only take one piece at a time.”
During his introductory news conference Tuesday, Colliton made it clear he wouldn’t blow everything up overnight. He stated he would start by tweaking things here and there before eventually implementing his own system.
On Thursday, that played out — although, the most noticeable differences weren’t really related to X’s and O’s.
To begin, Colliton was not announced after the Blackhawks starters prior to the game. Whether that was in deference to Quenneville – who used to be greeted a loud “Q!!!!” cheer to wrap the intros – or to protect Colliton from any deflected wrath really aimed at the front office, that omission set an unorthodox tone to begin Chicago’s first game in a decade with a new coach.
“Honestly, I never even thought about it,” commented Colliton. “If they would have asked me I would have said ‘no.’ Maybe they just knew that.”
MORE: Firing of Joel Quenneville ends Blackhawks’ golden era
For star player Patrick Kane, he had only known Quenneville’s voice since his sophomore season; however, the coach who inherited a young team led by Kane and Jonathan Toews back in 2008 and turned them into champions is gone for good. Now it’s on Kane and his teammates to adjust to a new bench boss.
“It’s different. We’ve played for the same guy for 10 years,” noted Kane, who scored his 12th goal of the season in the loss. “Obviously any type of change is going to be a little bit different, but I thought for his first game he was very calm.”
“We definitely got better as the game went on, no doubt about that… when we scored the third goal it looked like we were real close to turning the game.” – Jeremy Colliton #Blackhawks
Colliton’s demeanor was something that helped the Blackhawks stay in the game on Thursday.
Due to sloppiness in their own zone and a woeful power play – issues that helped doom Quenneville – Chicago fell behind 3-0 after 20 minutes. But, it doesn’t sound like there was some blowup in the Blackhawks dressing room or chewing out of the players. Instead, it sounds like Colliton established his presence by showing who he is.
“Seemed like he kind of had a powerful message there, in between the first and second, just to clean up some things and have a better response,” Kane said. “Any time you play for a new coach, there’s going to be a few differences here and there. As far as judging a coach, for his first game, I thought he was a good presence behind the bench.”
[email protected] reacts to the team’s 4-3 loss and describes Colliton’s presence behind the bench. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/gWE0YOWZIw
Brandon Saad, who was a key part of two Stanley Cup teams under Quenneville, echoed what Kane said.
“He’s a calm guy [and] I think he does a good job with getting the room to listen to you without screaming and hooting and hollering,” the winger commented. “He seems like he’s well-educated about the game. The things he says make sense, so I think it’s just about us committing to it as a team and playing that style of hockey.”
Committing to Colliton and the changes he has made and will make will determine whether the 2018-19 Blackhawks return to the playoffs.
Thursday’s loss ran their winless streak to six and they fell below .500 for the first time this season. To add to the urgency, a gauntlet of difficult games awaits in late November and December. Yet, even with an underwhelming roster, the words of team president John McDonough during Tuesday’s news conference made it clear the franchise still expects to make it back to the postseason.
“It’s different, but right now there’s no time to think about it,” Saad said of adjusting to a new coach. “It’s just committing to his team game.”
However, even that might not be enough to save this Blackhawks team. Unlike the last decade, it’s not on Quenneville to make the right moves. The process of getting used to that reality has begun for the Blackhawks.
Source: Read Full Article