Blackhawks script this week– Promotions, Firings & Rumors!
The Blackhawks players’ season may have ended on the ice but it appears the Hawks will be keeping us entertained in the off season with more drama off the ice. They say that soap operas are dead now that popular day time dramas All my Children, The Guiding Light and One life to Live are off the air. Well not to worry melodrama fans, the Blackhawks front office will be replacing this programming this season with some speculation, scheming and gossip of their own it appears.
In just one weeks time the Hawks promoted an assistant GM from within the club, fired a beloved assistant coach and had to squelch rumors that its Stanley Cup winning future HOF coach would be leaving the team to seek less resistant pastures across the northern border. Sounds like the makings of a soap opera to me.
Congratulations and Good Luck to Marc Bergevin for landing the job in Montreal as the Canadiens’ new GM. This will be no easy task to try and turn around a storied franchise and restore its glory again. Couple that task with appeasing a fan base that takes its hockey probably just as seriously as it does its politics should keep Bergevin very busy. This event actually happened last week but resulted in the start of events this week.
With the departure of Bergevin came two resulting events. One was the need to fill his role on the Blackhawks as Assistant General Manager or Stan Bowman’s right hand man and two, speculation that Bergevin would be asking his buddy Coach Joel Quenneville to head to la Ville de Montreal.
Norm Maciver on Monday was named as the Blackhawks new Assistant General Manager succeeding Bergevin. Maciver was promoted from within. Congratulations Mr. Maciver. He has been with the Blackhawks organization for five years and held jobs as Director of Player Personnel and Director Of Player Development. Prior to joining the organization the Hawks Maciver served as an Assistant Coach with the Boston Bruins (2003-06) and the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons (2000-03).
Now I will say I have no knowledge of Maciver so the opinions I give are just based on my personal feelings about situations like this that I have experienced in the past. It is not surprising that the Blackhawks selected a candidate from within. In the past this position was filled similarly when Kevin Cheveldayoff was promoted similarly.
I have no problems with this but must point out that sometimes especially when things are not working it is good to bring in outsiders to give another perspective and provide a dissenting voice. I mean you don’t want all yes men as that usually leads to stagnant organizations. If Mr. Maciver can still provide a dissenting voice I think it is good to promote from within an organization. Given that Mr. Maciver is coming from a personnel background may in fact be just what the Hawks need this year.
It is very important that someone who knows how to evaluate hockey talent both at the prospect level and at the professional levels have a voice. I have nothing against Stan Bowman, but hockey talent evaluation is not his bailiwick like it was Dale Tallons. Maciver could give Stan valuable input when it comes to players and complementing a roster. The Hawks have made it clear they want to find role players to complement the core so having someone who has scouting reports on both the NHL and junior prospects and Rockford prospects and familiarity with the players will not hurt the club in theory. Let’s hope Mr. Maciver can put his personnel and player development experience to wise use in the front office and that he will be listened too.
Now onto the second item with Bergevin’s departure to Montreal it was speculated on Hockey Night in Canada that Joel Quenneville could be a candidate for the head coaching position there given his relationship with Bergevin. Remember it was Bergevin who brought Coach Q to the Blackhawks. Why wouldn’t he want him again? I’m sure he would. Plus Quenneville speaks French which seems to be a paramount skill to landing the GM job there. The real question is why would Coach Q want to go to a team that needs a lot of work when you are already coaching one that is young and talented and just needs a few pieces to get back to the holy grail of hockey?
Was this a power move floating this rumor? If so was the rumor floated by Coach Q to get what he wanted or by Stan Bowman to either get Coach Q to leave the Blackhawks or at the very least show commitment to the Hawks and take on more accountability. Who knows for sure but both it appears for right now got what they wanted. A word of warning here to both, be careful what you wish for you may get everything you want and then some.
If the rumor was floated by Coach Q to gain more control over the coaching staff and how it is ran on the ice then mission accomplished. If the rumor was floated by Bowman to push more accountability on the coaching which deflects the spotlight being shown solely on the roster and thus him then again mission accomplished.
It is no secret that Coach Q did not appreciate the front office sending the mysterious Mr. Smith to police and report back to the front office on the special teams problems that the club had throughout the year. Now Coach Q could have gone to the front office and said if you don’t believe in me and how I run this team I’m going to Montreal where he probably would have complete control over his staff and would not be second guessed. It is also no secret Q didn't especially like his roster last year. If he did why were so many seated for so long particularly on the defence.
Stan Bowman may have leaked the rumor so that one of two things happened. Either coach Q would leave or exactly what happened. By Joel Quenneville stating he wanted to stay in Chicago as head coach and by him admitting he could be better himself as a coach this puts some of the past years’ failures squarely on his shoulders as much as it does Bowman’s. He could possibly be set up for a fall next year if things don’t turn around. I hope Coach Q in the offseason comes up with something for that dreaded special teams otherwise he may not be behind Chicago’s bench for long.
Enter the fall guy – Mike Haviland. On Tuesday afternoon after Coach Q said he was staying with the Blackhawks and dismissed the rumors of Montreal he also advised he relieved Assistant Coach Mike Haviland of his duties. Haviland was inherited by Coach Q from the previous coach so it is safe to say he was not Coach Q’s pick to be on his coaching staff. By firing Haviland, who by the way everyone liked, Coach Q will now have the entire coaching staff handpicked by him. In fact Stan Bowman has made it clear Coach Q can hire 1 or 2 more coaches if he feels he needs to. He also made it clear that it was Quenneville's choice to let Haviland go which makes Q look like the heavy. If it is for the betterment of the team again I have no problem with this.
While Quenneville says it is not about blame or blaming anyone it is. What is clear is Haviland is being blamed for the failures of the special teams this year, specifically the horrid power play. What is very curious is that everyone including the remaining staff Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen also had input on the power play and the Scotty Bowman guru Mr. Smith and no one could improve the power play. So why is Haviland solely to blame?
The one thing both Bowman and Quenneville said was the coaching staff this past year was dysfunctional. Now that is a pretty strong word. Obviously Haviland was not on the same page as Quenneville I’m not sure in what areas though. I suspect Haviland may have been too well liked by the players since Quenneville made sure to state in his presser that next year if one was not working hard enough or not performing they would be sat. He specifically cited the Predators as an example. Coach Trotz benched Radulov and Kostitsyn for missing a curfew. Obviously Coach Q felt someone last year should have been benched. Who and when I don’t know.
Mike Haviland was on the Blackhawks when they won the cup and will get a head coaching job somewhere soon.Good Luck Havi. Let us not forget he interviewed for the Winnipeg Jets head coaching job last year and was among final considerations. I hope since Haviland is head coaching material that was not the reason Coach Q made sure to get rid of him. If that was the reasoning it is the worst motivation because it is a personal motivation and not necessarily one that is best for the team. I don’t think this is the case or at least I certainly hope not as I would think Coach Q is professional enough not to let personal feelings guide his decisions. Then there is the old thing call Karma too so I hope for his sake that was not the reasoning behind the Haviland firing because we all know what happens with Karma.
Coach Q now must now hire one maybe two coaches that he will entrust to turn around the special teams which, no one has been able to solve so far. Stan Bowman has the task of bringing in the right complement of talent to surround the core with which he was not able to do this past off season. Both men are now under the microscope and will have much to answer for if the team either does not make the playoffs or has another first round exit.
As a fan of this team I hope both of these men get it right this year. I hope they can put egos aside and work together to achieve their mantra – ONE GOAL. Maybe they have already which is my hope. While the Hawks may be providing great grist for the media and us bloggers, I’d much rather they provide better entertainment next spring hoisting another silver Cup. The core is in their prime right now but, the window is closing and believe me it closes fast. Like sands in the hour glass so goes the days of their hockey lives.