When will all be well in Blackhawk land? - FOX 32 News Chicago

When will all be well in Blackhawk land?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The teams which are left standing in the NHL post season play a consistent style and they look very comfortable doing so. That is probably why they are still alive in the quest for Lord Stanley. When the going gets tough they stick to their systems for the most part. Players on each club trust each other and don't try to do too much. The same can't be said about the Blackhawks over the previous two seasons.

Some are quick to point out that hockey isn't a complicated sport. There aren't as many set plays as in football or basketball and that can't be argued. In some ways hockey is a simple game, but make no mistake, it is difficult to play consistently well. The Kings, Coyotes, Rangers and Devils all have very good goalkeeping and they have players which fit their style.

Each playoff survivor has a roster which meshes well. Each team can hide weaknesses and exploit strengths. For the Blackhawks to make a long playoff run they need to have a more defined style and a roster which allows them to excel.

Currently, it is difficult to know exactly what the Blackhawks strength is, although goal scoring would come to mind first. Last season when Joel Quenneville got his club to be more responsible on defense the scoring dropped off. Averaging two goals per game in regulation over the final two months against playoff caliber teams doesn't scream explosive offense.

The normal course of business for NHL clubs concerning changing coaching personnel is to do so quickly once their season ends. The biggest reason is so coaches who won't be retained are not in involved in making plans for the following season. In that way, strategy and off season wish lists are kept in house.

In Blackhawk land things can be different.

Mike Haviland was fired after exit interviews and organizational meetings were conducted. Quenneville mentioned GM Stan Bowman gave him permission to make coaching changes following the playoffs, but yet he waited. Actually, Quenneville waited so long he gave Haviland the bad news over the phone, after he had gone back home to his family.

Those wanting to connect the dots have reason to believe there was a verdict reached by Rocky Wirtz which led to releasing Haviland. It appears the Montreal head coaching vacancy may have pushed Hawk management to give Quenneville his wish to have two handpicked assistants. Wirtz could have been caught between a rock and hard place and decided keeping Quenneville was the best option for the Hawks.

Sacrificing Haviland, who had been well thought of in the organization couldn't have been easy, but Quenneville is a proven head coach. Haviland "might" be an outstanding head coach someday and whispers indicate he was stunned when he got the news from Quenneville. As far as this summer is concerned, Haviland's dismissal won't be the only change for the Blackhawks.

Scuttlebutt is Hawk players aren't happy Haviland is gone. Many times an assistant is the buffer between players and the head coach. Quenneville may have been bothered Haviland was close to many players but his dismissal is not likely to make remaining assistant Mike Kitchen any more popular.

As far as a replacement is concerned, Marc Crawford and Quenneville go way back. Maybe if Crawford doesn't get the bench boss job in Montreal he would consider being an assistant in Chicago, but I have my doubts.

Quenneville will eventually make his choice and it will be someone he can trust even when the going gets tough. A good start to the season is always important and Quenneville will be hoping his crew doesn't stumble out of the gate.

Both Quenneville and Bowman should feel more pressure come October than they have since winning the Stanley Cup.

There seems to be a prevalent feeling around the NHL many times a head coach has a four or five year shelf life. There are exceptions, but the thinking is players tune out the same voice after a period of time. Quenneville is entering his fifth season and time will tell if his message has fallen on deaf ears. So far, the core group appears to embrace their head coach but performance trumps emotional attachment.

Typically a general manager stays around long enough to pick one head coach, many times they get at least two hires. Bowman inherited Quenneville, he has yet to pick a head coach. One could conclude Bowman has been given more time to produce another Cup-winning roster because Quenneville is sticking around. That could be a logical conclusion but as we know, things in Blackhawk land aren't always so predictable.

As far as Hawk fans are concerned the relationship between the GM and head coach needs be solid enough so the team can progress. Whether people are friends off the ice is secondary as long as everyone is on the same page and that is the biggest concern moving forward.

Are Quenneville and Bowman following the same script?

They could be united but time will tell. It would be best if those who pay close attention were able to follow along with their script. In the last couple of years, it has been difficult to determine what course the Hawks are following.

This spring the Blackhawks apparently have issues on and off the ice and before long they need to define a plan of action. If correct additions are made this summer and management has a unified direction, good things could happen next season. If there are the same types of scattered signings as last year more disappointing on ice results can be expected.

Al's Shots

As the summer unfolds we will see who has their way with personnel decisions. Word is Quenneville is a Dave Bolland backer but not the biggest Viktor Stalberg fan.

Bowman has mentioned Stalberg as a future top six forward. Sources indicate Bolland was supposedly made available but Stalberg could be a useful trade chip as well.

If Stalberg is not going to be penciled in as a top six forward he should be traded this summer. Stalberg will attract suitors because he appears to have potential as a scorer and has one year remaining on a modest contract. Trading Stalberg could make more sense than dealing Bolland.

Maybe Hawk management has defined Stalberg's role for next year and will try to sign him to an extension after July 1. If not, his trade value may not be as high as it is right now. If Stalberg continues to progress he will earn far more than his current $875,000 salary.

On Friday we will take a look at possible off season additions for the Blackhawks.

Another team I'm hearing is looking for change but might have a tough time doing so is San Jose. The Sharks may follow the lead of the Hawks and look to replace an assistant coach. Even if it is later than usual, it is easier to fire an assistant coach than to deal big name players who have no trade clauses.

It should be an interesting summer in a number of NHL cites, especially those who made early playoff exits.

Follow me on Twitter@AlCimaglia

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