The Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, has hired a new head coach in 32-year-old Jeremy Colliton
The second move Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman made after his team’s early postseason exit was to fire Rockford IceHogs’ head coach Ted Dent. This didn’t have so much to do with the AHL team’s performance (though the Hogs had a poor 2016-17 season), but instead Dent’s comments about the Blackhawks plundering his team for players mid-season.
Today, the teams have filled the Hogs’ void by hiring Jeremy Colliton. This 32-year-old leader played at the WHL, SEL, AHL, NHL and Swedish League levels between 2001 and 2014. The former center, who was once drafted by the New York Islanders, retired at age 29, in part, due to post-concussion symptoms, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine.
Colliton was most recently coach of the Swedish Hockey League’s Mora IK squad, which compiled a 35-4-13 record in his fourth season. Here’s what Bowman had to say about Colliton’s hire, per the Tribune’s Hine:
"“Jeremy’s experience as a player and a coach will allow him to be a great leader and mentor for our young prospects in Rockford. He is coming off a great start to his coaching career with four successful seasons in Sweden and fits very well into our plan of continuing to develop our younger players.”"
Important for Blackhawks to have chosen AHL coach
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Of course, the Hogs needed another head coach at some point. But at this time, it was especially critical the Blackhawks made a hire sooner rather than later. Whether or not Colliton is going to be a quality AHL coach, I’m not sure. But it at least allows the Hogs to plan for 2017-18.
Dent was upset at the end of his tenure because the Blackhawks consistently needed to call up his best players. Obviously, that’s not a great quality to have as an AHL coach, since any NHL team is going to call up its top prospects throughout a given season.
However, I’m not sure Colliton will have to worry about that as much in 2017-18, barring injuries. The Blackhawks are probably going to be a lot closer to set with their roster out of training camp next season than they were this year.
A lot of youngsters got their shot in 2016-17, and most, if not all, project to hang around. And with the Blackhawks’ lack of salary cap space, they won’t be making a ton of moves, either (unless Bowman is aiming to free up space for a future trade with various small moves, as he did this season).
Additionally, there is some really strong talent that could roll into Rockford next season. Chief among that group would be Alex DeBrincat, should he not start the season in the NHL. Guys like Matthew Highmore, Tyler Motte, Graham Knott and Alexandre Fortin, among others, could begin 2017-18 in the AHL.
These are all guys who have gotten some level of positive recognition of late, and if they start 2017-18 in the AHL, they’re going to need a coach who has had time to establish himself and get comfortable coaching on North American ice. It’ll help these guys develop into more NHL-ready athletes.
Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Colliton fares in Rockford. The Hogs had the same head coach for the last six seasons, so things are sure to look different beginning in 2017-18.