The Chicago Blackhawks may have a power struggle brewing in their hockey operations after two straight first-round losses. Head coach Joel Quenneville was “upset and surprised by the move” to fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen, according to Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Hine.
The Hawks announced that Kitchen was “relieved of his duties” on Monday after seven seasons with the organization. The 61-year-old has coached with Quenneville from 1998-2003 in St. Louis and 2010-17 in Chicago, so it seemed apparent from the start that he wasn’t behind the move.
As Hine notes, the firing of Kitchen is “likely to re-ignite conflict” between Quenneville and the front office on how to manage the team. GM Stan Bowman was reportedly overruled by Quenneville in 2012 when management tried to have director of player evaluation Barry Smith join practices, which was a flash point in an interesting relationship between the two leaders of the Hawks’ hockey vision.
Bowman is ultimately Quenneville’s boss in the end, though, and it appears that he was able to convince ownership to make changes after the sweep against the Nashville Predators. If Quenneville’s coaching staff could survive one first-round loss with an expensive group, two proved to be too much.
There will be a lot to unpack from this in the coming days, but we’re getting signals that Bowman is trying to exert his power over hockey operations after making regular moves to appease Quenneville and the coaching staff over the years. The coaches usually got the benefit of the doubt given how successful the team has been, but with the need for change, it’s no surprise that Bowman’s patience ran thin. Hine says the move was also likely made to appease ownership, which wanted changes after such a disappointing playoff showing.