Chicago Blackhawks: Time for a Change, but on Which Coach Will the Axe Fall?
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In the face of a pair of disappointing seasons, 'Hawks brass may want to send a message across the organization. If that's indeed the case, Mike Kitchen may want to update his resume.
Find a group of Blackhawks fans and bring up the coaching staff. There's a good chance that Kitchen's name comes up as the guy who receives his walking papers.
I'm not working from any type of poll here. I've had conversations with hardcore and casual fans alike. The sentiment exists, to be sure. I don't think I've ever heard assistant Mike Haviland's name come up in such a conversation, except when it's pitched as a possible successor to Quenneville if he ever is removed from his current position.
Why Kitchen? Simple.
1. He's Quenneville's guy.
2. He doesn't have the Stanley Cup pedigree.
3. He's not Mike Haviland.
Quenneville brought Kitchen aboard two season's ago to replace John Torchetti, who moved on to Atlanta's coaching staff following the hoisting of the Stanley Cup. Haviland and goaltending coach Stephane Waite are both longtime parts of the organization.
Haviland isn't going anywhere unless he is offered a head coaching position with another NHL team. Waite has been in place nine years and is held in pretty high regard.
Which assistant's job is in the most danger?
Kitchen is the new guy. If GM Stan Bowman wants to shake things up with the coaching staff, it's hard to believe that Quenneville's addition to the staff won't be the target.
Barry Smith, Chicago's director of player development and a longtime assistant to Scotty Bowman, was sent down from above to tinker with the anemic power-play units as the season wore on. He was a frequent topic of conversation during the 'Hawks' nine-game skid back in February.
It isn't far-fetched that Smith or another organizational choice will be suggested to Quenneville. Replacing Kitchen may be Bowman's way of turning up the heat on Quenneville's spot on the bench.
Is Kitchen a scapegoat? The results have been obvious through his tenure. It's difficult to heap all of the special teams and defensive issues on him. Quenneville maintains that both coaches have had time with the power play. However, if the axe falls on anyone this summer, Kitchen is the coach who might be looking for the man in the black hood.
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