Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Haviland
By Adam L. Jahns email@example.com May 8, 2012 11:58PM
United Center, Chicago Blackhawks Vs Columbus Blue Jackets 3rd-Period. Chicago Blackhawks Assistant Coach Mike Haviland yells across the ice to the referees. February 18Th 2011. | Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: June 11, 2012 9:20AM
It was Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to fire assistant Mike Haviland on Tuesday. That much is clear.
But there are more factors involved.
Quenneville said he could’ve kept the status quo and retained Haviland, but sources indicated that the Hawks’ brass wanted a shakeup on the bench, especially because of the team’s awful power play.
Haviland’s firing comes after speculation that Quenneville might be willing to leave the Hawks because of friction with team brass.
“That’s something I want to put to bed right from the outset,” Quenneville said. “I love everything about our situation here in Chicago.”
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be more discontent, especially if Quenneville doesn’t get the final say in who replaces Haviland. If director of player development Barry Smith is thrust upon Quenneville again, more problems might arise.
With Quenneville’s reputation and résumé, management’s decision to send in Smith, a trusted assistant of senior adviser Scotty Bowman when he coached, to help the power play during the season was frowned upon by many around the league.
Sources also said Quenneville and Smith argued before the end of the regular season, prompting Smith to stop assisting before the playoffs. The front office, though, still wanted Smith around.
“I feel like it’s going to be my decision,” Quenneville said. “I haven’t put [Smith] on my list. I don’t have a list drawn up here at all right now. I don’t even want to speculate on any list. That process, I want to keep confidential.”
Quenneville said general manager Stan Bowman, who intimated a coaching change was needed during his end-of-the-year news conference, thought there was “some dysfunction” with the coaching staff.
Quenneville said he could’ve divvied up ice time better but agreed with Bowman and received the OK to make a change.
It won’t be easy replacing Haviland, who’s beloved by the players, being their go-to coach for issues. Sources said some players will be bothered by his firing. Haviland couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Quenneville made sure to say that his friendship with assistant Mike Kitchen had little to do with his decision but also adamantly defended him.
“These are facts,” Quenneville said. “Last year, our power play was fourth in the league. Penalty-killing was 25th. Kitch had the power play. This year, I wanted to make a change going into the season. At the beginning of the year, Havy was going to have the power play, and Kitch had the penalty kill.
“We made the change, and after 15 games, our power play was 30th in the league. So we went back; we flip-flopped. Kitch got the power play back, and Havy had the penalty kill. The numbers weren’t good, and that’s where it’s at. Then, all of a sudden, it’s almost like our whole team problem was Kitch. And it’s not about Kitch. It’s about us as a team making our power play all better collectively. This is not blaming Havy, either. This is just the way it is, and that’s part of the decision.”