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Chicago Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman Speaks On Mike Kitchen’s Firing

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Jun 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman talk with media during media day the day before the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman talk with media during media day the day before the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Even with the on-ice spotlight not hitting the Chicago Blackhawks, they’re still finding a way to be noticed off the ice this offseason

Is there any friction between the Chicago Blackhawks’ front office and its coaching staff? According to a key face in the former department, not at all.

Stan Bowman spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times at the IIHF World Championships in Germany, and the Blackhawks general manager said assistant coach Mike Kitchen‘s firing shortly after the Blackhawks’ early postseason exit was not any sort of warning to head coach Joel Quenneville.

"‘‘People think that’s the case, even though there’s no validity to it,’’ said Bowman, a member of the advisory group for the U.S. men’s national team. ‘‘I learned a long time ago that you can’t control what other people are going to think or say. We know what the truth is, and none of that is accurate. But that’s OK. That’s the way it goes.’’"

Kitchen was one of Quenneville’s most trusted assistants. Some believed back in the 2012 offseason that Kitchen should’ve been the assistant axed after a second consecutive first-round postseason exit. That dishonor went to Mike Haviland, however, and Kitchen would be part of two Stanley Cup wins before his eventual axing.

So that’s why some observers believed Bowman firing Kitchen may have been his way of taking back control of the Blackhawks. Coach Q seems to have gotten his way on a lot of personnel decisions in recent years, but after another two straight early playoff exits, perhaps Bowman was putting his foot down by cutting Kitchen. He says it was not the case.

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Bowman says what he has to say

As Bowman noted, he can’t control what other people say or think. And despite what he said to the Chicago Sun-Times, I still have a hard time believing there wasn’t some sort of “take notice” directed at Q with Kitchen’s firing.

Bowman could never say that there’s some sort of disagreement or conflict between the front office and the coaching staff. That would be a terrible look for any pro sports organization, and would just lead to tons of questions.

But we all know Bowman was frustrated with what he saw on the ice to end this Blackhawks season. His press conference after the Predators’ sweep was filled with heated words and threatening of action. And some of that frustration is going to fall on the head coach, naturally.

Bowman was certainly upset with the players, and hopefully upset with himself (another failed trade-deadline acquisition in Johnny Oduya). But there’s very likely some angst toward the coaching staff as well, hence Kitchen’s ouster.

Perhaps Bowman is a little peeved with how much Q has gotten his way in recent years. He wound up getting to keep the assistant coach he most favored in 2012. He’s continually gotten useless players on the roster because they bring “grit” and “veteran presence.” Some youngsters have found it difficult to get playing time (though that was far less of a concern this season).

And while Bowman signs off on all these things, there’s no doubt Coach Q has a big say in them. Just look at another quote from the Chicago Sun-Times’ article:

"‘‘We’re not delaying (finding a new assistant) by any means, but you want to make sure you get the right person,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Joel’s going to play a big role in that because he’s going to be working with that person day-to-day.’’"

It’s smart to have the head coach heavily involved in finding one of his assistants. But it’s also just another sign that Q has a lot of sway in this organization. And so, taking away his favorite assistant does come across as a warning shot to me.

Next: Look Back At Columbus/Minnesota Expansion Draft

Bowman doesn’t have to to say as much. It doesn’t benefit him or the team to do so. But things feel a little different this offseason than they have in ones before under Coach Q, and the Kitchen firing is a big reason for that.

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