Blackhawks do not believe season is lost after firing Colliton, GM says
CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks have plenty to play for this season after coach Jeremy Colliton was fired following a 1-9-2 start, general manager Kyle Davidson said Sunday.
“You find out if you’re a [Stanley Cup Playoff] team in April, and let’s be totally honest, the math is not in our favor right now to get to that point,” Davidson said. “But no season is ever lost, because you’re always going to be able to learn something, you’re always going to be able to continue your evaluation process.”
The Blackhawks have four points, second fewest in the NHL, ahead of the Arizona Coyotes (three), and are seventh in the eight-team Central Division entering their game against the Nashville Predators at United Center on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; SN1, NBCSCH, BSSO, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
Colliton was fired Saturday, three years to the day he replaced Joel Quenneville. Derek King, who was coach at Rockford of the American Hockey League, will be the Blackhawks coach the rest of this season.
“In terms of putting labels on playoff team or anything like that, this is a new era now,” Davidson said. “I’m newly in charge. Where we go from here will be based on the evaluation that started when I took the job and continues now. There’s a great opportunity for these players to have a blank slate with Derek, both individually and collectively.”
Davidson was named general manager Oct. 27, when Stan Bowman stepped down as Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager following an independent investigation of former forward Kyle Beach’s allegations of sexual assault by then-assistant Brad Aldrich in 2010. He has been given full autonomy to proceed as he sees fit with any area of hockey operations or roster.
Davidson said the search for the Blackhawks coach will begin in the offseason and he’ll help ownership in deciding future leadership.
“Midseason it’s not something, you’re not able to explore maybe the number of (coaching) candidates that you like, so that’s something we’ll explore after the season. We have a lot of time to get there,” Davidson said. “In the meantime, we’re going to focus on getting some wins and playing the right way and getting back to a brand of hockey that our fans can be proud of.”
The Blackhawks are allowing 3.92 goals per game, second most in the NHL behind the Coyotes (4.00) and their 13 goals scored 5-on-5 in 12 games are tied for second fewest with the Boston Bruins (13 in nine games) after the Dallas Stars (11 in 10 games).
King said he was “shocked” to get the call on Saturday. He and assistant Marc Crawford met with Blackhawks players Sunday and want them to get familiar with him as quickly as possible.
“It was more just the expectations of, it’s going to be demanding getting back to where we want to be but we’re also going to make it fun,” King said. “There’s nothing wrong with working hard and having fun but we have to do it together. That was my message and like again, I’ll say it, I will take it a game at a time, a day at a time and we’ll just keep moving forward.”
With so much change in the organization the past two weeks, King said he wants to help the players settle down and feel more comfortable.
“I want these guys to feel relaxed,” King said. “They’re tight. So my personality is going to come in and just let them take a deep breath, get your shoulders dropped,and go have some fun. Get back to the game we love to play. We’ve played it since we were five, six years old and it hasn’t changed. You might be making a little more money now, but it’s just time to go back playing some good solid, hard hockey and have some fun with it.”
The Blackhawks have 70 regular-season games remaining and an uphill battle if they want to challenge for a playoff spot. The evaluation process will be ongoing.
“We’re going to learn a lot — I’m going to learn a lot — in terms of what we see over the next weeks and months. We can decide what direction we want to take at that point,” Davidson said. “There’s still a lot of information yet to be learned. I don’t think a season is ever lost in terms of your ability to learn and understand what you’re dealing with. Definitely not lost.”