Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen Key Behind Scenes For Blackhawks
Alright, let’s review. No, the Chicago Blackhawks are not in the Stanley Cup Final. And yes, there is a long summer ahead for the team and its fans. Here at Blackhawk Up, all we want to do is write about the Chicago Blackhawks. And as a reader, I’m guessing all you want to do is read about the Chicago Blackhawks. The only problem is that right now there really isn’t much current news regarding our favorite team.
Instead of being superstars, the players are enjoying some much deserved time off. They’re spending quality time with their family and friends. They’re laying low and relaxing before they gear up for yet another year.
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During this summer hiatus, I personally want to learn more about the Chicago Blackhawks and what makes them tick. I thought it might be fun to go behind the scenes. In my next number of posts, I will delve into some of the people that aren’t often discussed.
Sure, we are used to seeing Jonathan Toews win numerous faceoffs and Patrick Kane score a lot of goals. But who manages things and takes care of the details so they have the opportunity to do that? There is a huge support crew involved that gets largely taken for granted.
Now, of course, we have the dynamic personality of head coach Joel Quenneville. He’s not exactly behind the scenes. He’s front and center, conducting pregame and postgame interviews and looking angry behind the bench. And we can’t forget Coach Q’s Mustache, which manages all the player’s beards.
But all jesting aside, when we refer to coaching, it’s not just Coach Q. He has two assistant coaches that most fans know very little about. Today, I’d like to take a closer look at assistant coach Mike Kitchen.
Kitchen and Quenneville go way back. They were NHL teammates in Colorado and New Jersey from 1979 to 1983. Both were defensemen. Kitchen was the assistant coach under Quenneville for the St. Louis Blues from 1998-2003. He also served as an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs (1989-98) and the Florida Panthers (2007-10), as well as being the head coach for the Blues from 2004-06.
Kitchen joined the Chicago Blackhawks on July 12, 2010, making this upcoming season his seventh year with the team. With the background they share, I’m sure Coach Q had a huge influence on Kitchen coming into the fold. When coaching together, the two have never missed the playoffs.
Usually one assistant is in charge of the powerplay and the other is in charge of the penalty kill. Last season, Kitchen ran the penalty kill unit. Here is an excellent read about the many adjustments Kitchen had to tinker with in order to strengthen the penalty kill towards the end of the season.
As a former defenseman, Kitchen also handles the defensive side of things for the Blackhawks. This has been quite the challenge over the last few seasons, considering the lack of depth on the blueline. I found a fascinating article about Kitchen’s deployment of the defense during last year’s Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It gives one a new respect for everything the coaches and players have to keep track of in this incredibly fast-paced sport.
In May 2012, the Chicago Blackhawks were coming off of a disappointing year and another early exit in the playoffs. As a result, assistant coach Mike Haviland was relieved of his duties with the team. At the time, there was plenty of controversy that the wrong coach had been fired — that it should have been Kitchen instead. It’s kinda fun to be able to look back at these things now. Kitchen, Quenneville and the ’Hawks have gone on to win two Stanley Cups since then.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I understand that one thing is not necessarily a direct result of the other. But it does appear that “Kitch” and “Q” have an excellent working relationship. And it also appears that they will have the opportunity to work with each other again next season.
Will Kitch run the penalty kill again, or will he spearhead the powerplay? Will he have a stronger defensive unit to work with? The answer to these questions will come in time. Hang in there, boys and girls, and thanks for reading!