Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman denied speculation that the firing of assistant coach Mike Kitchen was designed to be a “warning shot directed at coach Joel Quenneville,” reports Brian Hedger for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Bowman is currently at the 2017 World Championships in Cologne, Germany, where he’s scouting in preparation for the offseason. The GM has already made several moves, including firing Kitchen and AHL coach Ted Dent, trading Scott Darling to Carolina, and re-signing Richard Panik to a two-year contract extension.
Those moves set the table for what should be an active offseason in Chicago after the team’s beatdown at the hands of the Predators in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. No-movement clauses and salary cap considerations will play a big role in just what Bowman can do this summer, but the pieces are already in motion to make changes.
At the time of Kitchen’s firing, it was hard not to look at the move (at least to some degree) as Bowman trying to exert a little more power in the organization. The Hawks have a somewhat unique structure with Quenneville wielding so much power as a widely respected head coach, and from a distance, firing Q’s best friend and right hand man seemed like Bowman altering that a bit.
A report in the Chicago Tribune said Quenneville was “surprised and upset” by Kitchen’s firing, which added fuel to the speculation of possible discord between the front office and coaching staff.
However, Bowman appears to be trying to put the kibosh on that issue before it starts growing into anything bigger. This isn’t the first time that there have been widely reported issues between the GM and Quenneville since they started working together in 2010, but coming off such a disappointing playoff performance, the pressure is increasing for the Blackhawks to avoid the status quo.
Bowman seems to recognize that given the changes that have already been made, but it seems like he also wants to make it clear that Quenneville will be involved in those changes, rather than being pushed aside with them. “We’re not delaying it by any means, but you want to make sure you get the right person,’’ Bowman said of hiring a new assistant. ‘‘Joel’s going to play a big role in that because he’s going to be working with that person day-to-day.’’
It makes sense that Bowman would try to get everyone back on the same page before what could be a major offseason. Now the question is how much input Bowman will continue to take from Quenneville on personnel matters, which is something we’ve all wondered about over the years.