Blackhawks ready to lay blame for problems, especially power play
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org April 25, 2012 10:06PM
11-14-10 United Center. 1901 West Madison Street. Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Blackhawks Vs Anaheim Ducks 1St-Period. From (left) to (Right) are Asst/Coach Mike Kitchen, Head Coach Joel Quenneville, and Asst/Coach Mike Haviland meet with the head coach. Photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Updated: May 28, 2012 8:59AM
The Blackhawks have reached the point for some internal finger-pointing. Meetings are planned. Discussions and arguments will be had. The value of players and coaches will be evaluated. Fault will be assigned.
And changes will be made.
Taking into account every comment made by general manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and some players during clean-out day Wednesday at the United Center, those changes may not happen in net or at second-line center, as some fans might hope.
Instead, some personnel were missing, and there may be a change on the bench next to Quenneville. The power play, a real point of contention within the organization, is the main reason why.
‘‘The results speak for themselves. They were a huge disappointment this year,” Bowman said. ‘‘The power play, it was unacceptable to have the caliber of players we do and to not have it work.’’
Multiple sources told the Sun-Times that if the Hawks do make a coaching change, it’s likely assistant coach Mike Kitchen who will be dismissed, confirming speculation that his job may be in danger.
For most of the season, Kitchen, who is close to Quenneville, handled the power play, which finished 26th during the regular season, converting at 15.2 percent, and went further south against the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoffs, finishing with a 5.3 percent success rate.
Bowman was asked if he was happy with the coaching on the power play and whether he felt change was needed.
‘‘That’s really a question Joel’s probably better able to answer,” said Bowman, who added he will discuss staff changes with Quenneville first. ‘‘It’s a more of a coaching thing than anything. There is lot of different ways to run a power play and to orchestrate it, and for whatever reason, ours didn’t work. We need to be better in that area. There’s no doubt about that. It was a season-long struggle for our team.’’
The Hawks’ brass sent in Barry Smith, a longtime assistant of Scotty Bowman, to try to help things in a move widely viewed as a sign of unhappiness with the staff.
“Barry came in kind of from afar as a consultant to our staff and saw some things,’’ Quenneville said when asked if he’s happy Smith got involved. ‘‘He’s been around a lot of years and a lot of teams and a lot of good power plays.”
It was the shortest answer Quenneville provided Wednesday. He wanted to take the fall for the struggles of both special teams, but he also called out his players.
“Going forward as a staff, we’ve got to absorb responsibility, but players have to absorb some responsibility as well because they’re the ones that execute it,” Quenneville said. “Sharing that going forward has got to be important.”
Some players, though, think it’s a matter of missing personnel. Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and Duncan Keith all thought the Hawks were missing a reliable net-front presence.
Ex-Hawk Troy Brouwer was named more than once as the type of player missed, although there are some similar types still on their roster.
‘‘[A net-front presence] is a huge part of the power play,” Kane said.
“It’s big thing when you have that goalie screen and have a big body in front; goalies hate it,” Bolland said.
“Obviously, any good power play has a guy in front of the net all the time,” Keith said.
Keith, though, also named himself as a player who has to getter better on it and said a combination of things played into its futility.
‘‘For one thing, our confidence was probably a factor,’’ Keith said.
That, in turn, has affected the confidence Bowman has in those who made it happen.