You know it.
I know it.
Everyone in the city of Chicago knows it: Jeremy Colliton is bad at his job.
And that’s not to say he could never be good at it. But currently, he is not fit to serve as NHL head coach. Not for this team, not for these players, certainly not for this city or market. He does a disservice to the development of important prospects like Nicolas Beaudin, Wyatt Kalynuk and Ian Mitchell. He continues to find ways not to ice one of the clearly superior young players in the lineup in Philipp Kurashev. Not to mention, body language says a lot about how Jonathan Toews likely feels about the current Blackhawks coach:
When you definitely love and respect the coaching staff pic.twitter.com/88Ml9FbMeW— Oracle of Humboldt Park (@FifthFeather) August 19, 2020
Following a legend isn’t easy. But Colliton has made following Joel Quenneville look especially hard, taking a good possession team (it’s hard to say the Blackhawks, near the end of Quenneville’s run in Chicago, were a great 5-on-5 team) to the bottom of the NHL. In part, it’s because of a system Colliton refuses to change that does a disservice to roughly ... every defenseman who plays in it.
The Blackhawks can’t generate high-danger chances, but they sure are good at giving them up. They can’t sustain offensive pressure, but they sure are good at allowing it. They’re one-and-done in the offensive zone, but teams get a ton of rebound opportunities in the Blackhawks’ defensive zone.
Three years into the Colliton tenure, with a good amount of roster changeover and players getting better (likely a result of their own work, see: DeBrincat, Alex), it’s hard to put the lack of results and the bottoming out of possession on the roster construction. Stan Bowman isn’t good at a lot of things — his trades leave a lot to be desired in most cases and I don’t know if he’s signed an optimum, team-friendly deal yet — but he’s able to construct a roster out of undrafted free agent signings (Brandon Hagel), European free agents (Pius Suter, Dominik Kubalik) and drafting (Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach and Kurashev) with the best of them. On another team, Bowman may be one of the best head scouts in the league.
It’s not like there’s a lack of head coaching talent in the world right now, either. ESPN just published a list of good candidates in the world, and some of them are very impressive. With the way the new guy has turned out, the Blackhawks will likely turn back to a more veteran coach. Bruce Boudreau remains available, as does Gerard Gallant. Besides those two, Kirk Muller, a longtime NHL assistant, is available, as is Claude Julien.
In terms of new blood, Rocky Thompson will always be mentioned by this writer as a should-be NHL head coach and Jay Woodcroft of AHL Bakersfield has shown a knack for developing defensive talent (which is what the Blackhawks need most) and has a longer AHL tenure and more proven track record than Colliton.
The Blackhawks’ sinking ship may not have hit rock bottom if Colliton remains at the wheel. If Chicago got out now, Bowman’s job would likely remain safe. If the Blackhawks see another season at the bottom of the standings (and bottomed-out possession), though? Who knows for sure.
Gauging Blackhawks fans’ interest in the team, it does not feel like an overall optimistic group. One of the reasons why has become quite clear: something needs to be done about the “Great Communicator” who can’t communicate with team leadership, the “coach who’s good with the kids” who played Nikita Zadorov more than Adam Boqvist and Mattias Janmark more than Kurashev or Hagel.
Make Toews player-coach, who knows.
Just do something.