What’s the real message Blackhawks are sending Joel Quenneville?
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville listens to questions during their end-of-season media availability at the United Center on April 22, 2017.
There are several reasons a general manager fires an assistant coach the way Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman whacked Mike Kitchen this week, and almost none of the fallout is good.
One reason is to threaten the head coach with his job if a particular assistant isn’t canned after a bad event, such as a top seed getting swept by the last team in the playoffs, even if that head coach is a three-time Stanley Cup-winner and sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
Another reason is to prompt the head coach to resign after his usual control of assistant coaches is usurped.
Another is that it was a necessary move that the head coach was too close to properly evaluate.
Yet another reason is for the GM to cover his backside to appease angry upper management and ownership who have built their lives around “One Goal,’’ and that slogan didn’t refer to the number of even-strength scores their team would manage in four games against Nashville.
So, feel free to speculate when considering the message-slash-threat Bowman sent to coach Joel Quenneville with the firing of his close friend Kitchen.
We’ve seen this movie before when Bulls titular GM Gar Forman fired Tom Thibodeau friend and defensive master Ron Adams, creating enmity that would result in Thibodeau’s firing two years later.
Quenneville and Bowman had a rift in 2012 when management tried to force director of player evaluation Barry Smith into an on-ice role. Quenneville won that confrontation, but the unease didn’t necessarily dissipate.
The Hawks won two Stanley Cups, so whatever issues existed didn’t erupt. But when the Hawks were swept by Nashville this year, their second straight first-round out, an assistant would be chopped again.
In the Hawks’ embarrassing exit, the offense was nonexistent, and remember, the Hawks offense starts with their defense, and Kitchen coached the defense, a group that looked old and slow both in trying to move the puck and trying to prevent the Predators from doing whatever they wanted around Corey Crawford. Connect the dots, people.
Kitchen also ran the penalty-killing unit, which was pathetic to open 2016-17 and hasn’t been championship quality the last two seasons.
The best-case scenario is that Quenneville doesn’t become a short-timer and Kitchen’s replacement is someone who can speed the learning curve of the young defensemen who will undoubtedly get playing time next season.
The worst-case scenario is we’re guessing at who Bowman will names as Quenneville’s successor a year from now.
I’m glad Bowman is mad. I’m glad he’s making changes and promising more. But good luck with the full no-movement clauses he gave to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Niklas Hjalmarsson and partial no-movement clause he gave Artem Anisimov.
I don’t want to hear about Blackhawks players being as angry as ever the day they cleared out their lockers. They should’ve been angry during the four games against the Predators.
Kane’s comments dissing the Predators’ trapping style and admission that perhaps they didn’t take Nashville seriously is the type of entitled attitude that killed the Hawks — the kind that Bowman vowed to get rid of. Except of course if it’s Kane’s entitled attitude.
Kane’s additional comment that he’s rooting for the Predators to lose because the style they play isn’t entertaining prompts the question: What entertaining about a conference winner getting blown up in the first round?
And another question: If Kane hated that style so much, then why didn’t he and the Hawks find a way to fight through it to beat it?
I appreciate Kane’s honesty, but the problem is, it explains why the Hawks looked like they were skating with some arrogance, as if they didn’t need to muster the ferocity to win every board battle because, remember, they were the Hawks.