The Chicago Blackhawks have fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, the team announced Monday. This is the first move made by the team since getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators.
GM Stan Bowman said Saturday during his first offseason comments that changes would be coming to the organization after “complete failure” in the postseason. At the time, he said that head coach Joel Quenneville’s job was safe, indicating that moves would occur elsewhere.
The coaching staff is still getting a shakeup, but it’s one of Quenneville’s key assistants that’s been fired instead. Kevin Dineen and Jimmy Waite will remain on.
Kitchen, 61, was hired by the Blackhawks as an assistant coach in 2010. He had previously served as an assistant under Quenneville in St. Louis, where he became head coach in 2003 when the Blues fired Q. That gig didn’t last long, however, as he got fired midway through his second full season after compiling a 38-70-4 record.
The Panthers hired Kitchen as an assistant in 2007, then he moved to the Blackhawks in 2010 to reunite with Quenneville. Together in Chicago, they made seven consecutive postseason berths and won two Stanley Cups while helping turn the Hawks into one of the NHL’s premier franchises.
But Kitchen has long focused his duties on defense and the penalty kill, two areas where the Blackhawks didn’t exactly thrive this season. The penalty kill took a massive step back in 2016-17 with an absolutely brutal start to the season. The Hawks’ PK finished 24th in success rate at 77.7 percent.
So now the Blackhawks’ changes begin with one of their longtime assistants, and they won’t stop there.