The Blackhawks are off to a dreadful start to the 2021-22 season, to say the least. After three games, the team is 0-2-1. They’ve let in goals in less than a minute in two separate games. All the various transactions made by Stan Bowman were supposed to improve the team, but they look to be absolutely terrible. Maybe it’s not fair, and it’s early in the season. Maybe. At the same time, someone needs to be held accountable.
Up till now, I’ve been fairly deferential about the Chicago Blackhawks’ coaching staff, and in particular, Jeremy Colliton. He’s had to wade through some pretty difficult stuff. He replaced a beloved future hall-of-famer in Joel Quenneville, had to coach the team through two(!) Covid-19 shortened seasons and has yet to even coach a full 82-game season.
This is all unenviable stuff, but Colliton finally got a full pre-season, an improved roster, and apparently has had the confidence Chicago’s top brass. We should all give Colliton and the rest of the coaching staff a break.
However, the team looks bad. They don’t look ready to play when the puck drops, and it’s leading to the team giving up quick goals. It’s hard to tell what’s supposed to be happening on the ice because everyone looks disorganized. There’s not enough sustained time in the offensive zone.
Consider this combined tweet from Mark Potash and Ben Pope:
I could forgive the quick goals if Chicago wasn’t digging themselves into deep holes by the end of the first period. Even losing could be less of an issue if the games looked competitive, but they don’t. The fact that the team doesn’t even look like it’s in even in the games at any point is cause for concern.
This lies at the feet of the coaches, and primarily Jeremy Colliton. He had the preseason and a full camp. Most of former the veterans are gone. The team is his, and only his. The only players left from the halcyon days of yore are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Any time he’s needed to implement his system, he’s now had it. In fact, the team even looked decent at times during its preseason games. None of this is to say that Colliton doesn’t have his supporters.
It should be noted that it isn’t just Bowman that has stood behind Colliton. Players have as well. During the postgame chat, Kane expressed his support for Colliton. Mark Lazerus posted up a tweet with that quote.
As one of the team’s elder statesmen, Kane’s voice matters in the room. People may say that Colliton has lost the players, but if Kane is coming out publicly to back him, that’s worth taking stock of. That’s Kane’s opinion though.
In my opinion, Colliton has been given every chance to succeed, but he isn’t. Even if he isn’t about to be shown the door, it’s time to make changes. Maybe that means one of the assistant coaches gets fired, Sheldon Brookbank would be a good place to start. If the Blackhawks can’t hang defensively, against Colorado or anyone else, and that’s been a consistent problem, then the defensive coach should be the first one to be shown the door.
All of this could be overreacting, and it’s only the first three games after the roster had a significant overhaul during the offseason. Then again, Colliton’s track record is pretty consistent so far, and this is regardless of who is on the ice. It’s unlikely that Colliton is fired anytime soon, but his leash is probably just going to become shorter and shorter as the poor performances pile up. Until that happens, it might be time to consider making other changes behind the bench. Then again, I hope I might have to eat my words later on this season.