The Chicago Blackhawks have been opening up practice to a new set of eyes. Is this a sign that the front office is implying that head coach Joel Quenneville could use a little help? Could it be that Quenneville is the one asking for a hand?
According to Jesse Rogers of EPSNChicago.com, the Blackhawks have been joined on the road by Director of Player Development Barry Smith. Smith, a long-time assistant to Senior Advisor Scotty Bowman, was on the ice on Thursday and again on Saturday for practice.
Smith was working with the 'Hawks power play units in practice. It has also been revealed that this isn't Smith's first stint traveling with the team.
“He’s been around us for a while now,” Quenneville said. “The experience in coaching whether it’s seeing our power play or special teams or all aspects of our team game. That’s what he’s helping us out with.”
Smith also accompanied Chicago on the final leg of their road trip. As you may remember, that trip was marked with improvement on the penalty kill and ended with a pair of wins.
After Smith's tutelage Thursday, the Blackhawks had a goal with the man advantage and scored a 2-1 win in Ottawa. Obviously, there has been some benefit to having another voice in practice.
However, what should be made of the fact that Quenneville and his staff getting help from Smith?
On one hand, it shows a commitment to getting the Blackhawks special teams off the bottom of the NHL pile. There might be good reason for a fresh approach. Why not take advantage of the wealth of knowledge within the organization?
On the other, isn't that what Quenneville, Mike Haviland and Mike Kitchen get paid to do?
Suppose it was not Smith but Scotty Bowman himself who was on the ice putting the special teams through their paces. That would be definite cause for speculation regarding the hold Quenneville has on his job. At the very least, things might look bad for one of Quenneville's assistants.
Kitchen is usually the first name that gets tossed out when talk of changes in the coaching staff breaks out among fans. It would be hard to blame one of Quenneville's lieutenants if the players aren't getting the message, though. Shouldn't that responsibility come from the top dog?
It's hard to tell if Quenneville had input in the decision to reach out to Smith, though he doesn't seem too upset about the extra help. Either way, the 'Hawks are giving Smith the chance to add his two cents to the coaching mix.