Bowman says firing assistant coach was not a warning to Quenneville

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After the Chicago Blackhawks were swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators, general manager Stan Bowman was brutally honest in his assessment of the team’s performance and insisted that changes were going to come this offseason.

One of the first changes to be made was the firing of  Mike Kitchen, a long-time assistant on coach Joel Quenneville’s staff. That move was perceived by some to be a warning shot directed at Quenneville. But on Saturday at the World Hockey Championships in Cologne, Germany, Bowman told Brian Hedger of the Chicago Sun-Times there is absolutely zero truth to that theory.

‘‘People think that’s the case, even though there’s no validity to it,’’Bowman told Hedger. ‘‘I learned a long time ago that you can’t control what other people are going to think or say. We know what the truth is, and none of that is accurate. But that’s OK. That’s the way it goes.’’

Bowman also said that Quenneville will work with him when it comes to hiring Kitchen’s replacement because, “he’s going to be working with that person day-to-day.’’

Kitchen’s role with the Blackhawks included working with the team’s penalty kill and defense. The penalty killing unit was a major point of concern early in the season but showed steady improvement over the course of the season and only allowed a single power play goal in the four playoff games against the Nashville Predators. The unit still only ranked 24th in the entire NHL, mostly due to the disastrous start they had to the season.

Making significant changes to the roster is going to be a challenge for Bowman this offseason given the team’s current salary cap situation and how much of that money is tied up in players that the team will either not want to move (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith) or simply will not be able to move due to no-trade clauses or other teams not being willing to take on the money.

It’s not like the Blackhawks had a bad season, finishing as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But it was the second year in a row they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round and this time they did not even manage to win a single game. That is always going to be disappointing and lead to some changes given the expectations the Blackhawks have set for themselves.