Chicago Blackhawks: Five Potential Replacements for Mike Haviland
The Mike Haviland era in Chicago has come to an end.
In a season in which neither Haviland nor fellow assistant coach Mike Kitchen were able to fix the special teams, it was clear that at least one head was going to roll.
Keeping with the Bowman/Quenneville status quo of ineptitude, it was Haviland that wound up being the sacrificial lamb behind the bench. Despite getting the team to the Western Conference Finals in his first season as an assistant in Chicago in 08/09, and then winning it all in 2009/10 (compare that to two first round exits with Kitchen), Haviland will now be seeking alternate employment.
While I disagree with the move, the bigger picture is figuring out who will replace Haviland.
Honorable Mention: Jacques Martin
Surely Martin's name will come up in discussions about the Hawks' vacancy. He's got tons of experience and is currently without a job.
As with any head coach with his body of work, Martin would seem like an ideal fit. The odds of the Hawks landing someone with this much experience to essentially take a demotion is highly unlikely, along with any other coach with significant NHL head coaching experience, unless they desperately wanted to be a Hawk.
He's been a head coach in the KHL. He was Scotty Bowman's right-hand man in Detroit. He even joined the Hawks bench in a role that remains unclear towards the end of the season.
In all likelihood, this is the Blackhawks' new assistant coach. Barry Smith has a track record of success, tons of experience, and surely Scotty Bowman will be whispering rather loudly in his son's ear about the great things Smith could bring to Chicago's bench.
Of course, in sports nothing is certain. If I had to bet on who gets the job, though, my money would be on Smith in a heartbeat.
Dent has one season of experience under his belt as an AHL head coach, nearly taking a Rockford squad that was constantly decimated by injuries and call-ups to the playoffs.
Dent's been in the organization for quite a while and would be a good breath of youth and energy to this team. A familiarity with the Rockford call-ups would also likely be a plus for Dent.
Steve Poapst has a long line of credentials and would also make a ton of sense for the job.
First, Poapst played four of his eight NHL seasons for the Blackhawks during the early 2000's. He then went on to coach the suburban Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League. As head coach and GM of the Steel, Poapst found and developed a plethora of NHL draftees: first rounders John Moore (2009, Columbus) and Jamie Oleksiak (2011, Dallas), a pair of second rounders in Philip Samuelsson (2009, Pittsburgh) and Will Weber (2007, Columbus), a third rounder in Max Nicastro (2008, Detroit), and a sixth rounder in Kevin Lind (2011, Anaheim), along with a ton of NCAA hockey players.
While Phoenix's Andy Miele did come through for the Steel during Poapst's regime, his forte is clearly defensemen. With the Hawks back end seemingly in a constant state of flux and disarray, Poapst's expertise on the subject could be a huge help to the team.
Another former USHL head coach, Jon Cooper, jumped from being head coach of the powerhouse Green Bay Gamblers to the head coaching job of the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.
In his first season behind the bench for Tampa Bay's AHL squad, Cooper lead the team to the top record in the league. He saw the Admirals set a new record for any North American professional hockey team with 28 straight wins.
Cooper is clearly a great hockey mind and is on the rise fast. If he's willing to be added on, he could very reasonably help the Hawks out right away, while being an apparently rock-solid fallback option should the Quenneville-Kitchen connection falter.
Armed with experience as Atlanta's assistant coach and as the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons' head coach, Todd Nelson could be a very wise choice for Chicago's coaching vacancy.
A fourth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1989, Nelson only saw three NHL games. The former defenseman spent most of his time in the minor leagues, eventually shifting to a player/coach role with an unaffiliated minor league team in Muskegon, Michigan.
Oklahoma City finished with the second best record in the AHL behind Cooper's Admirals. While the Oilers may be grooming him at the AHL for an eventual job behind their bench, the Hawks offer is out there now. If they ask, he'd be a fool not to take it.