The Chicago Blackhawks recently announced they had hired the new coach for the Rockford IceHogs. Did the Blackhawks also hire their next coach?
Of course, Joel Quenneville currently coaches the Blackhawks. In his tenth season, the 58-year-old coach has compiled a record of 413-204-83, highlighted by three Stanley Cup championships.
It’s no secret that Coach Q was surprised and upset over the recent dismissal of Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen. My source tells me that this firing did not sit well at all with Coach Q. Could this move, coupled with the early ouster from the playoffs, be the first signs of the end of the Quenneville Era? If so, or even just as a precaution, could the hiring of Colliton be an insurance policy/plan for the future?
After four seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders, Colliton was selected in the second round, 58th overall, by the New York Islanders in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He played in 57 games over parts of five seasons with the Islanders.
After injuries derailed his career, in 2013, he signed with Mora IK of the HockeyAllsvenskan. Ongoing post-concussion syndrome forced him to retire after only three games. In that same season, he was named Interim Head Coach and eventually the “Interim” tag was removed. In his time in Sweden, Colliton had a record of a 98-18-57, while leading the team to a promotion to the Swedish Hockey League for the 2017-18 season.
Colliton has had much success in his short coaching career. At just 32 years old, Rockford seems to be the perfect place for him to develop his coaching skills and prepare for a place in the NHL. Will that place be Chicago and will it be in the not too distant future?
Clearly, nobody is showing the door to Coach Q, but in today’s sports climate, ten years with one team is an eternity. In the NHL, only Arizona’s Dave Tippett, and his nine years with the Coyotes comes close to Quenneville’s ten with the Hawks. After these two veterans, Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (hired in March 2013) has the most tenure with his current team.
I think Quenneville wants to prove that this season was the fluke and not the future. If things go as planned, the Hawks will have another successful season and advance deep into the playoffs. If things go awry and the Hawks struggle and get booted early again, Quenneville’s departure could be hastened.
The ideal scenario would see the Hawks returning to form and capturing a couple more Stanley Cups in the next several seasons. Meanwhile, down in Rockford, Colliton leads the IceHogs back to winning seasons and Calder Cup contention. Maybe after five or so more successful seasons with the Hawks, Quenneville at 63 might be ready to step down (perhaps step over to an advisory position), with Colliton stepping up to the Hawks.
Of course, there are a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” in this theory. Many things can happen in the next few seasons or even next season itself. Nobody is proclaiming Colliton as the next savior for Chicago, but if everything falls into place, he could fit big time into Chicago’s plans.
I always say that the IceHogs of today are the Blackhawks of tomorrow. In this case, it could be that the IceHogs Coach of today is the Blackhawks Coach of tomorrow.