Quenneville allowed to hire assistant as Haviland is fired - FOX 32 News Chicago

Quenneville allowed to hire assistant as Haviland is fired

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Let's start off with some good news which came out of Tuesday's media conference call after the firing of assistant coach Mike Haviland.

For all those worried about Joel Quenneville being dismissed as head coach to take the same position in Montreal, that's not happening. Quenneville stated he wants to finish out the final two years of his contract with the Blackhawks. So Quenneville is about as secure as a head coach can be, for now.

Evidently Blackhawk management is all in on Quenneville. GM Stan Bowman determined the root of the problem last season to be some dysfunction in Quenneville's coaching staff. Following their playoff elimination, according to Quenneville, he was given the opportunity to replace any of his assistants.

Mike Haviland, who wasn't an original hire of Quenneville, was fired Tuesday. Interestingly, Haviland was thought to be in line for the Hawks head coaching spot once Quenneville was gone. Some would say that's the main reason Haviland is no longer around. Others believe Quenneville deserved to pick his own coaching staff and never had the chance. Then there are some who think there was going to be a fall guy and Quenneville was never going to dump his close friend and assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

Blackhawks fans can determine for themselves or take one of the reasons above as to why Haviland was shown the door. What was certainly apparent Tuesday is Quenneville spent a great deal of time defending Kitchen.

The power play and penalty killing units were both bad last season. The power play especially was consistently awful throughout the campaign. Many had the view Kitchen was the one who designed the power play and led practices. Quenneville admitted the same and maybe that's why he felt a compulsion to defend his buddy.

Quenneville mentioned Haviland started out directing the power play for the first 15 games. At that point, the Hawks ranked last in the league in power play efficiency and Quenneville gave the assignment to Kitchen. That means through the next 67 regular season games and six in the playoffs, it was Kitchen who was mostly responsible for the power play. That would be mostly accountable for the power play of the assistants, because head coach Quenneville is ultimately responsible for everything.

The Blackhawks power play, except for a brief period ranked close to the bottom of the league. For the regular season, the Hawks ranked 26th out of 30 teams. They scored only one time out of 19 opportunities during the postseason. Maybe that's why Quenneville spent much of the time defending Kitchen on Tuesday citing that his character shouldn't be questioned.

Quenneville was bothered by the criticism Kitchen has taken from fans and media alike during the season. That's understandable but measured on performance, Kitchen could easily be taken to task.

Quenneville was careful not to lay the blame completely on Haviland. That was wise considering Haviland apparently was only chiefly responsible for the power play for 15 games. Quenneville did make one admission, and he would have been wrong not to do so. He admitted he stuck with the same players too often on the power play. Quenneville seems to be implying that some entitlement has entered into the thinking of certain players.

It sounds good to say power play should be earned. It also makes sense for Quenneville to share the blame because no matter how much his assistants had to do with designing the power play structure it is Quenneville's job to put the players on the ice. Although it is not Quenneville's job to create the roster, that's on GM Bowman.

Those who watch closely know Quenneville tried different combinations. Players who never spent much time on power play throughout their careers were given the opportunity. Steve Montador, Johnny Oduya, and Jamal Mayers are all veterans who were seldom previously used as power play participants.

What Quenneville wouldn't say is he had a roster which didn't leave him with many viable options. Imagine if Andrew Shaw wasn't brought up later in the year, he was one of a few that could establish net presence. What Quenneville didn't come out and say is there wasn't anyone signed last summer that provided a power play boost. Actually none of the defensemen signed provide much help throughout the season on the penalty killing unit ether.

To take it a step further, there wasn't any free agents brought in to replace the net front presence a Troy Brouwer or Tomas Kopecky could provide. Combine that fact with the low shooting percentage of Duncan Keith, who was repeatedly used on the point, and it is no wonder why the power play was so bad.

For now Bowman and Coach Q. appear on the same page but in my view, a message was sent by the Hawks front office. The popular Haviland was sacrificed and in doing so, Quenneville is out of excuses. Quenneville will have his own handpicked staff and although he has two years remaining on his contract, Bowman and others probably won't be as tolerant of any missteps.

Haviland was responsible for the defense when the Hawks won the Cup. Keith had a career year and Seabrook had a strong campaign also. The Hawks special teams clicked well enough as Haviland had involvement in both.

When Kitchen arrived on the scene, everything seemed to change. Ultimately, Haviland was assigned the forwards during games and according to some appeared less involved in special team practices. Also, Keith and the entire defense has never played as well.

Haviland is well thought of around the NHL and shouldn't have a problem finding another job if he chooses so this season. Most likely Haviland had one year remaining on his contract. I am surprised the Hawks let Haviland go, but maybe his departure is best for all.

Quenneville mentioned Barry Smith wasn't on his list of candidates but then said he doesn't really have a list. He also commented someone known to have experience handling special team responsibilities would make sense.

Many assistants can make that claim but it remains to be seen who will be available. It might not be very likely an assistant would leave one organization for a lateral move if they are still under contract. Actually they probably wouldn't be given permission to do so.

Where we are currently is this is Quenneville's job to lose. Going to Montreal may have never been a viable option. It looks like more of a case of the media connecting the dots because Marc Bergevin is a friend of Quenneville.

For now, Quenneville appears happy to stay in Chicago with  another friend, Kitchen. It remains to be seen who Haviland's replacement will be. Hopefully holes on the roster will be filled this summer and a better equipped roster will take the ice in the fall.

What appears likely to me is some Hawk players won't be happy Haviland isn't around any longer and Quenneville probably realizes the same. Maybe Quenneville thought everyone has been too comfortable since winning the Stanley Cup.

That could be true, and up until recently, the same could be said for Quenneville and the Hawks front office.

Follow me on Twitter@AlCimaglia

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