A Little Psychology Behind the Chicago Blackhawks Coaching Decision

The Chicago Blackhawks extended Jeremy Colliton yesterday as the head coach of the team.

I guess the criteria for extending Jeremy Colliton’s contract was just a question of him showing up. But considering the current state of the Chicago Blackhawks, the coach’s mere attendance might have been the sort of the Herculean act that signaled to management “we’ve got our guy”.

Colliton has been in a tough spot since he was hired back on November 6, 2018. For a more thorough history and discussion of Colliton’s tenure check out Jimmy Lynch’s article.

So why now? The Blackhawks are going to be treading water for a while. There doesn’t appear to be a buzz around the league about Colliton’s unique coaching acumen or rumors that another team was looking to poach him.

Regardless Bowman extended him through the 2022-2023 season. The main reason cited was Colliton’s ability to develop young talent. While I don’t doubt this assertion, it still doesn’t explain the urgency to make this decision.

Colliton was Bowman’s pick to replace Quenneville, a Blackhawks’ legend, future Hall of Famer, and the first scapegoat for the drop off in the Blackhawks’ performance. There is something to be said for backing your guy because it makes you look like you know what you are doing theory, but I think there might be a bit of psychology behind this move.

The main thing Colliton needs to accomplish this season is to provide Bowman answers for the future. Who is NHL ready? Who might be? Who fits? Who is dispensable? To get this information, Colliton will have to balance the importance of wins with giving certain players more ice time, mixing up lines, and sending out inexperienced players during crucial parts of the game.

No matter what the rosters’ level of buy-in is to this rebuild, as the losses mount there will be some level of disappointment. If players believe that personnel decisions are part of the cause, it may lead them to question the process.

There were angry grumblings after the decision to say goodbye to Corey Crawford so it’s not like dissension is too far below the surface. Colliton needs to be in control of the locker room, He needs to be able to stare down any doubting glances. Perhaps the security of the extension makes it easier, and if that was the reason then Bowman’s decision makes more sense.