One Year Since Coaching Change, Blackhawks Still Searching For Consistency

On Nov. 6, 2018 the Chicago Blackhawks announced they had fired the greatest coach in franchise history. Joel Quenneville was relieved of his duties with the Hawks having a 6-6-3 record. It was obviously not the start the front office was hoping for and they decided to make a significant change, going with Jeremy Colliton as the replacement.

At the time of Quenneville’s exit, here’s where the Blackhawks were in some specific statistical categories:

  • 6-6-3 record
  • 15 games played
  • 46 goals for (3.0/gm)
  • 56 goals against (3.7/gm)
  • 492 shots on net for (32.8/gm)
  • 502 shots on net against (33.5/gm)
  • 14.0% power play (rank: 26)
  • 76.6% penalty kill (rank: 23)
  • 49.4% faceoffs (rank: 20)

Today is the anniversary of Quenneville getting fired. Between then and now, the front office has made the third overall pick in the NHL Draft and spent significant resources in free agency/trades to improve the roster that wasn’t getting it done for Quenneville.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were the only defensemen on the ice in Los Angeles Saturday night who were on the team when Quenneville was fired; Erik Gustafsson was a healthy scratch who returned to the lineup on Sunday in Anaheim. Seven of the 12 forwards who dressed against the Kings and Ducks weren’t on the roster when Q got the axe.

This is a largely different roster.

The results have not improved.

  • 4-7-3 record
  • 14 games played
  • 33 goals for (2.36/gm)
  • 43 goals against (3.07/gm)
  • 400 shots on net for (30.1/gm)
  • 467 shots on net against (35.6/gm)
  • 11.9% power play (rank: 28)
  • 80.4% penalty kill (rank: 19)
  • 49.2% faceoffs (rank: 19)

Obviously reading the numbers you quickly realize the Blackhawks are allowing more shots on net per game this year in spite of the more expensive, “improve” group on the blue line. The goals against have come down (thanks, Robin Lehner) but the goals for have come down significantly as well.

And, somehow, the power play got worse.

A few other comments:

  • The new-look second power play unit that we saw in Anaheim has the look of one that could be dangerous. Even if it feels like Jonathan Toews is babysitting on paper, they looked good.
  • Until the late power play goal scored by the Ducks on Sunday, Chicago had killed 15 straight penalties. That’s solid improvement. The addition of Ryan Carpenter specifically has made a difference there.
  • The faceoff percentage getting worse is a concern. David Kampf has struggled and the Hawks haven’t seen improvement from Dylan Strome at the dot. Colliton was excited about the Hawks new versatility up front and that he had more than 3-4 guys who could take a draw, but the only two skaters above 50 percent at the dot thus far are Toews and Carpenter.
  • It appears Colliton has found some lines that work (finally). Alex Nylander’s upside is starting to show.
  • Even though the Hawks are paying Zack Smith, they aren’t playing him. Colliton has shown a willingness to sit guys – including Erik Gustafsson and Seabrook – and put kids into the lineup. That should help their development, assuming Colliton continues to use them appropriately.

48 thoughts on “One Year Since Coaching Change, Blackhawks Still Searching For Consistency

  1. If you look at the records and such it seems that if Coach Q got fired then Colliton really should be fired.

    And Bowman really really should be fired since he didnt fix anything at all.

  2. I suppose this go around it will be the GM and the coach that get fired. I like Bowman and will be disappointed to see him go. Won’t be sad at all to see Colliton go. Does anyone else just hate to listen to his press conferences? Like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

  3. Cant wait for the Chicago fans to start booing relentlessly and start hucking debris on the ice.

    You know its gonna happen soon.

  4. Coach Q gave poor press conferences. I didn’t listen to them because he never said anything specific. It was always “we’ll see” and crap like that. At least JC gives more detail. If he can’t get these clowns working better then he will unfortunately have to go. I think everyone overrated this roster though to be honest. Long season ahead.

  5. Let’s assess gm and coach. Both are letting everyone down.
    Season is gonna end with Kane saying we are not playing with consistency? Well, losing at very level is consistent. Oh, most every level…
    Who will take charge? Let’s throw some names out before before Christmas break…Or give me some names today. I want a winning team in Chicago cuz the Cubs are lame also…

  6. So just out of curiosity, if they were to give up on the new defense system/style, is it possible that the team overall would improve? It STILL seems like the pieces are there to at least be much better than we’ve seen thus far…. a lack of grit and intensity for sure, but I still feel the skill is there. Maybe its just the confusing system that’s throwing off this group of seemingly talented players? I also think some more consistent lines moving forward (whatever they end up being) would help build some needed chemistry.

  7. Tab- thanks for leading us to the obvious conclusion!!
    Question is whether, or not, this management team is courageous enough to do AGAIN, what they did last year?
    What’s the saying that “doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of …”
    You got it!

  8. For a few years, the question I have asked is what kind of team are we? A possession team? A physical team? A team build on speed? A team built on defense?

    I don’t think there is an answer because I don’t think management knows.

    I agree with those who say the roster is not as bad as the record, but bottom line is that this team is just a collection of guys. It’s less than the sum of the parts. And that, I’m afraid, reflects more on management than it does on the players. Clearly the players have to take some of the blame but they are the cogs. The architecture, the overall design, that is on management and I think the only thing you can say about it with certainty is that it just isn’t working.

  9. Duncan Keith on Coach Q and Colliton (via Jay Zawaski & Spittin Chiclets)

    “Probably one of the best things about Joel, for myself, and for the teams we had … he allowed us to play the game and not overthink it,” Keith said. “Where I think sometimes, the way it is now, it seems like every little situation is already played out for you … laid out for you … how to play it. When to me, in hockey you got to be able to read and react and think quickly and be natural out there. That’s kind of what I appreciated about Joel the most.”

    This speaks volumes!

  10. I posted this on previous thread – it seems relevant here;

    JC is not maximizing his roster with the dump and chase and whatever defensive scheme he’s using

    He went out of his way to publicly state before the SJ game that it was a big game for the Hawks to build some momentum and to trend upwards and that he talked to the team about that but instead they played sloppily, lazily and not smart with no forecheck or ability to pass the puck cleanly – that response to what JC called a big game is very telling – the Hawks had 5 shots on goal when SJ went up 2-0 halfway through the 2nd!

    Things could get very ugly in the next 3 games – VAN, PIT and TOR – if those are 3 losses JC may be done despite Stan’s support

  11. @Loags – I think Duncs nailed it – very telling indeed

    JC unfortunately has to go – elevate Marc Crawford to interim HC to see if the results improve and do a proper HC search in the off season

    Being a HC in pro sports is a lot about managing personalties, putting them in positions to have success and motivating them – I think Crawford (who has won a cup) knows much more about this than JC who seems to think his job is teaching elite athletes how to play the game

    If the results are no better with Crawford then the roster is deeply flawed and it’s time to move on from both him and Stan

  12. I’m not a Gus fan but the one thing he has shown he can do well is QB the PP admittedly not very well so far this year but very well last year and at no point worse than Duncan Keith so now that Gus is back in the line up why is he not on the PP instead of Keith?

    Another baffling case of player usage by JC

  13. It is hard to see exactly what to fix with this team. They move from exciting to who the heck is guarding that guy in seconds. The shots on goal against is super painful to watch, and Lehner must be absolutely exhausted. It would be sad to see coach JC go, because I love the young guy success story, but the team looks bad.

  14. Lets hope this Coach and G.M can at least keep LEHNER fresh and healthy because he is going to bring in some quality at the deadline.The question is when will the Coach be launched?The Bowman debacle will not be taken care of till the end of the season when they kick him upstairs and clean this whole thing out.Given that scenario Marc Crawford takes over for the remainder of this season and lets the players play whatever system that they want.Sad times.

  15. Tab, thanks for your outstanding write-up an analysis. You spoil us.

    Regardless of whether JC is not the answer to our woes, numerous off-season player changes were made and it likely takes time to get everyone in sync with one-another.

    Too many keep comparing our D with years past. Hjalmarsson and Oduya are gone and Keith and (especially) Seabs are way past their prime. Until our young studs make the team (beginning with Boq), Murphy, Gus, KK, Maata, and deHaan, are not enough to making us a contender.

    Tim, excellent post about Lehner. Was only thinking about how to extend his contract. CBJ and others were willing to take on expiring contracts to shore up their playoff roster. This could be an excellent opportunity for the Hawks.

  16. If things don’t improve by Thanksgiving, Colliton could get the axe. Right now the Hawks have no identity other than mediocre. I don’t think the team is as bad as they have looked so far, but I don’t think they have much of a chance to make the playoffs at this point either. When I heard that the Sharks had lost five straight in regulation, I knew the Blackhawks would find a way to lose to the Sharks. It’s just were they are at now.

  17. The Hawks are consistent….Horrible just about every game !! Players need to toss the Colliton system in the trash and play the way they are supposed to. Let them get in the ear of Marc Crawford and get his Blessing on how to play.
    But also it’s just not the coach, the players have to play, if they have no pride in their playing, then it doesn’t matter who is behind the bench. And I see a bunch of millionaires that could care less, and Lehner should give them an ear full….he is busting his butt and the team in front of him are running around aimlessly chasing shadows.

  18. “….. searching for consistency….?”. Ha.

    Searching for competency.

    Tessier in his 80’s would be an improvement over Colliton. Tommy Ivan in his grave would be an improvement over Bowman.

  19. With Colliton, I see no passion. He talk more like economic professor. I want him to do well. Nice guy. Team did well for a while for him. Why not now? Same was happening with Q. I don’t know.

  20. Loags – that quote from Duncan Keith nailed it. The players minds are paralyzed such that, they are no longer playing on instinct which is a “must” for successful athletes. Overthinking in any sport, from team sports like hockey to individual sports like tennis or golf, is an absolute convince crusher. That’s exactly what we are seeing with this group.

    Interesting that Jay Zawaski wrote today that the Hawks need to fire Colliton.
    NBC’s Charlie Rameiliotis, wrote that the Hawks have gotten worst under Colliton.

    John McDonough has said he reads and watches EVERYTHING about the Hawks. If even the beat guys start clamoring for Colliton’s head, McDonough may have no choice but to call Stan in and tell him to “try again” when it comes to a head coach.

  21. What can a coach do? What can a coach like Trotz do. Of course he is untouchable now so who is out there? I like a coach that has walked the walk for a period of time in the sport he coaches.
    For some reason I would give Dave Reid from NHL network a try if he is willing. Can’t hurt if you bring him in as an interim bases. Someone from outside the box. Let him select his assistants.
    Jokingly I posted Cheli and Savy as ambassador coaches but really associate coaches wouldn’t sound bad. We all know how Kane felt when Savy was let go. This could put the spark in Kaner that everyone sez he’s missing.

  22. Duncan Keith along with the rest of guys on the team that can’t or do not want to learn new systems should be traded.
    Colliton should be axed because he tries to cater to the former stars way to much.

    Duncan Keith playing on the power play is a joke. Everyone is wondering why the power play in not working…. plus can someone please let me now why Colliton is playing Keith 25 minutes a game?

    Why is Colliton starting Keith every time a game goes to overtime?

    Keith doesn’t have a great shot or great passing abilities.

    Patrick Kane has to float around half the time or else he would be unable to double shift all of the time.
    And people wonder why Kane would say that he doesn’t care if he has regular linemates…think about it…..how else would Kane be able to play over 20 minutes a game?

    Why would you have Seabrook on the penalty kill?
    He can’t catch anyone…basically a total liability.
    How is our penalty kill anyway?

    Toews is having an off year so far. No worries give him 20 plus minutes a game and start him every time in overtime, I’m sure he will get some points eventually.

    Coach is a joke!

  23. All this jabberwocky is getting tiresome. When will the disconnect be aligned?
    Tomorrow? Thanksgiving? Christmastime at the bar with Troy Murray? Rhetorical…
    BTW, are the Icehoggers doing better without Jeremy Colliton? Hmmm…

  24. @ Craig – I get the feeling Stan won’t fire JC so you may be right that it would require McDonough to tell him to do so

    If there isn’t a coaching change in the next two weeks the season as far as making a run at the playoffs is over IMO – we’re in tough in the Central and points are hard to make up given the loser point

    I still believe this team is better than what they’ve shown and I also believe the players care but like Keith said they’re all overthinking and not playing by instinct – that makes them look slow and uninterested and that results in losses and as the losses pile up the confidence goes and then you’ve got what we’re seeing

    Plus it seems every game JC makes questionable usage of his players and fails to adjust in game to the opposition and the players see that and that further erodes their confidence

  25. I find it hard to believe (and stomach) that Colliton would be fired and Bowman keeps his job-really? I do think some valid points have been made about the shortcomings of this young coach and that one day he might be a better head coach.
    To me it’s none or both.
    I think Jordyhawks post is very relevant.

  26. Noonan said that since he was hired that Bowman wouldn’t get to hire next coach.

    The core players may not be what they were 5 years ago, but they walked the walk to3 cups and a couple of other conference finals, they have alot of pride, there is decent talent around them and some promising rookies.
    There is a coach who is talking alot of talk, but so far hasn’t shown he can show this team to limp the limp let alone successfully walk the walk his way.

  27. I would wait until see games 10-20, then I saw sch is still shitty for 10-16, with 6 in 9 days. Sch isint excuse but really havnt had any point in time yet where its a normal sch. with 2 in 11 days, 2 in 7, 5 in 7, then 5 days off, then 6 in 9. WTF is that. Thats worse then we have looked.

    Want this guy to do good but if system isint working then need to do it. We were 9-18 and had a good 40 games and were tied with two other teams for 7 and 8 seed with 5 or 10 left so thats a -9 30 games in. So realistically even in this were 10-10 would could do it, and were at -3 now games in.

  28. Keith is a joke… Turn over machine… wuss won’t go into a corner to retrieve puck (AFRAID to get hit)… Can’t get off a shot… then if he does he misses net… Can’t keep puck in off. Zone… on and on….Should get his mouth shut…. Trash most Over Rated player IN ALL OF SPORTS….and a HACK too when he is checked…lol ?

  29. A really good breakdown by BenPope of the SunTimes. He looked at the zone entries from the San Jose game and found that of 41 zone entries in the first 2 periods, Chicago dumped and chased 31 times, and carried it into the zone 10 times.
    Wow! Alarming! Jarring! Discouraging! 75% dump and chase; 25 % carry and create.

    No wonder these players look disheartened. Go get 4 good NHL level defensemen to prevent goals. 11 NHL level hustle forwards to dump and chase and one star such as Kane to play this 1985 system. Or Matthew Barzal and be the New York Islanders.

  30. Tired of the Hawks trying to make the perfect pass or the “shot pass” ….just put the puck on the net…..Seabrook you are a big guy, can you please knock someone on there ass in front of the net instead of just standing next to them.

  31. I don’t have much if any confidence in this year and that’s pretty early to be saying that. After this week they will be caught up in games played and they aren’t easy games-Canucks a young exciting team, Penguins tough to beat and the Maple Leafs. (then it doesn’t get any better-Las Vegas, Buffalo, Carolina and Tampa) There are already 11 teams in the West with more points and some with double or more.

    So what is this year? Again a year to decide player ability, line/paring chemistry, style of play and leadership. At some point this should be done with the General Manager that will be here in 2, 4, 5 years from now. To me that isn’t/shouldn’t be Bowman. He did his job pretty well, now it’s the ‘new face of the team’. That is the first choice and the critical one. Given the circumstances that should be done with patience, not reactive.
    And its been mentioned getting things in order to have any chance of resigning Lehner, which is a huge priority. If it’s still possible. A number one goalie that just turned 28 doesn’t always fall in your lap every day. (Regardless they need a good, younger back up for the future) Keeping Lehner, or not, will help decide the next few years and the relevance of 88 and 19.
    2 is a warrior but is already falling out of relevance.

  32. Craig I here what you are saying about the dump and chase.
    Problem is if the other teams know that the hawks have a weakness retrieving the dumpins. Are the opposing teams not going to force the hawks into dumping it in?

    Worst part is the hawks are no longer talented enough to carry the puck over the blue line consistently. Secondly the hawks are definitely not built nor have the desire to retrieve pucks when they dump the puck deep which obviously becomes a huge problem.

    Unfortunately there becomes a time for every former top team to rebuild.
    Problem is to get the management and the fan base to actually realise it.

    After getting smoked four straight by Nashville the last time the hawks did make the playoffs and following that up with missing the playoffs the next two years.
    Being one of the worst team so far this year.

    It might be time to admit our hawks are just not that good.

  33. Crawford starting, Smith for Kubalik, reasoning sounds like setting it up so when Murphy comes back, Kubalik be sent down to Rfd. Time will tell

  34. I was under the impression that Kubalik had a clause in his contract that said he can go to Europe if he doesn’t make the team. Does that clause not prevent him from being sent down to AHL after the season starts?

  35. Haven’t even heard if Murphy is back skating yet. If he has a torn groin, it will likely still be a long while.
    Kubalik will likely be back in the lineup this weekend.
    Inserting Smith in the lineup will make no difference at all. 7 or 8 ho-hum minutes.

  36. Smith in and Kubalik out make sno sense to me – the sort of random shuffle that belies JC’s inexperience

  37. Does anyone remember that at the start of the 17-18 season, McDonough said he’d give Q and Bowman one more year to get things together? We know how that’s gone………….

  38. Cant do a system that doesnt work with the players. We can trade some players afetr we get another system. This team of players is good, with a system that works for these players.

    Black and White. Once the young wave are ready and we add another top lottery draft player? we will be very fast and good. Need a system to go along with it.

  39. And sometimes it’s as simple as players do not relate / respect a new coach as they did with their former coach.
    This is one of those times.

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