Jeremy Colliton

Blackhawks Red Wings preview
Getty Images

NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks begin homestand vs. Red Wings

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

If the Blackhawks and Red Wings continue on their current paths, their playoff droughts will continue.

The Red Wings (10-29-3) merely hope to avoid making dubious history. The Blackhawks, though? With 42 points in as many games played, the 18-18-6 Blackhawks aim to keep slim hopes alive.

Blackhawks begin homestand vs. Red Wings coming off a solid trip

Chicago entered 2020 winning five of their last seven games. Even considering a 7-5 loss to the Canucks that involved a squandered lead, the Blackhawks felt good taking two wins from a three-game road trip. That stretch looks better when you consider the obstacles Chicago faced.

“There’s a lot of positives to take,” Defenseman Connor Murphy said, via the Blackhawks’ website. “I think just the way guys came together and played in three different time zones, a lot of travel and seemed to string periods together and show that we can be a team to put a big winning streak together. I think we really wanted to do that tonight, but we know in order to be that team that we think we can be, we have to string it together at some point and we have a good opportunity going home to do that.”

The Blackhawks face an opportunity to grind their way up the standings a bit with a four-game homestand. With that in mind, they can’t take dour Detroit lightly.

Blackhawks have plenty of room for improvement

Broadly speaking, Chicago maintains recent patterns. The Blackhawks can generate offense, but give up even more going the other way. They might need to outscore their problems to even greater degree with Robin Lehner banged up, as Lehner bailed Chicago out on plenty of nights.

As Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said, “the focus will continue to be on defending.”

Improving on defense is an understandable goal, but gains may only be marginal. The Blackhawks might actually want to focus on their power play. Despite boasting Patrick Kane (on another 100+ point pace) and Alex DeBrincat, the Blackhawks have only converted on 15.7 percent of their power-play opportunities, a bottom-10 rate.

Maybe the Blackhawks can wake up their man advantage against a struggling team like the Red Wings?

One way or another, Chicago needs to take games like these if they want to keep the door open for a playoff push.

Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside Pierre McGuire at United Center in Chicago, Ill.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blackhawks self destruct, blow 3-goal third period lead to Blues

Blackhawks Blues third period rally
Getty
1 Comment

Just when it looked like the Chicago Blackhawks had hit rock bottom they found a way to keep digging.

Their disastrous three-game road trip came to a brutal end on Saturday night in St. Louis when they allowed a three-goal lead with 16 minutes to play turn into a 4-3 regulation loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.

The meltdown began when St. Louis’ Tyler Bozak scored just 30 seconds after Patrick Kane had given the Blackhawk a 3-0 lead, capitalizing on a terrible turnover by Alex Nylander.

The Blues completed the comeback with three goals in the final six minutes of regulation, including a pair of goals just 12 seconds apart to tie the game.

Just three minutes after that sequence Justin Faulk scored his second goal of the season for the game-winner.

1. The Blackhaws’ problems remain the same

It’s the defensive zone play. It has been the defensive zone play. It continues to be the defensive zone play.

At times the Blackhawks look like a team that has never had to play in the defensive zone before. Turnovers, missed assignments, blown assignments, and just about every possible defensive calamity that can happen to a team in the defensive zone happens to this team on a near nightly basis. All of that was on display in the final 16 minutes on Saturday and it once again left their goalie — in this case Corey Crawford — all by himself on an island.

2. Where they stand now

In last place in the Central Division and next-to-last place in the entire Western Conference, just one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. Needless to say, that is a brutal position for a team with one of the league’s largest payrolls to be in.

They are 3-8-2 in their past 13 games (only one of those wins in regulation), are nine points out of the second Wild Card spot and 12 points back of the top-three teams in the Central Division.

They were outscored by a 14-6 margin on their three-game trip that took them through Arizona, Vegas, and St. Louis.

At this point the season is not only getting away from them, it appears to be completely gone.

3. What happens next?

This is the type of stretch, and this is the type of game, that leads to change.

Or at least starts the ball rolling toward change.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton has been on the job for just one year, and firing him that quickly after he replaced a future Hall of Fame, three-time Stanley Cup winning coach would make it seem like the Blackhawks don’t really have much of a plan and don’t really know what they’re doing.

But do you know what? Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing, and maybe they don’t have a plan. General manager Stan Bowman gambled big on his core and that its strong second half a year ago was a sign of what the team was still capable of. That it maybe just needed a few tweaks to compete again. With every passing game this season, and with every defensive meltdown that seems worse than the previous one, it is becoming increasingly clear this team just isn’t very good and the right changes were not made.

In the end something is very wrong with this team and there does not seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

PHT Morning Skate: Gudas returns to Philly; living in McDavid’s shadow

1 Comment
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Radko Gudas wants to make a grand return to Philadelphia with his new team. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Sean Couturier‘s line has been really strong for the Flyers, but how do they compare to Boston’s top line? (Broad Street Hockey)

• Devils veteran Andy Greene‘s season has been surprising so far. (All About the Jersey)

• Who is Sebastian Aho? (Cardiac Cane)

• It’s time for the Canadiens to sign Victor Mete to a long-term contract extension. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

Jason Spezza has a soft spot for Don Cherry, but he understands Sportsnet’s decision to part ways with him. (Toronto Star)

• The next five games are really important for the Florida Panthers. (The Rat Trick)

Jared McCann has been a nice find for the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Pensburgh)

• Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton explains why his team made a certain schematic change. (NBC Sports Chicago)

• The Golden Knights are reportedly searching for a mobile defenseman. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• It’s taken some time, but Kevin Fiala is finally starting to fit in with the Wild. (Hockey Wilderness)

• What’s it like to live in Connor McDavid‘s shadow? Leon Draisaitl tells ESPN.com.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Blackhawks encouraged by strong second half under Colliton

Getty Images
6 Comments

A second straight season without playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is unacceptable for the Chicago Blackhawks of today. Having won three championships since 2010, the franchise established itself as one of the NHL’s elite teams, but not playing deep into April the last two years resulted in change.

Joel Quenneville and his three Blackhawks Cup rings were told to go after 15 games last season. Enter Jeremy Colliton, who was running the bench for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Rockford. It was a drastic switch for a roster that features plenty of veterans, but after some time letting the new coach’s system sink in, the results finally began to show.

The Blackhawks recorded 39 points in 31 games after the All-Star break, third-most in the Western Conference over that span. They scored 112 goals, tied for fourth-most in the NHL, and vaulted themselves into a wild card race that they would ultimately fall short in by six points.

The takeaway from that final stretch was that the players saw hope that some continuity in their play, improvements defensively, and a full training camp and regular season under Colliton will pay off.

“It’s almost like we’re restarting again,” Patrick Kane told NBC Sports during last week’s NHL Player Media Tour. “You can kind of throw those [championship] years out the window. I know we have a couple guys from those teams but a lot has changed in the NHL, a lot has changed with our team. 

“I don’t want to say we’re in a rebuild, but we’re just rebuilding the team we need to be to win a championship. With the roster turnover, with Jeremy having more experience, our veterans coming in as motivated as they’ve ever been, it bodes well for our team this year.”

[MORE: Colliton looking forward to camp with new-look Blackhawks]

While the offense was hot, the defense was not. Only three teams in the West allowed more goals than the Blackhawks did (102) post-All-Star break. The acquisitions of Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta, and Calvin de Haan aim to improve things on that side of the ice, but it will require more than the players whose main job is to keep the “Goals Allowed” column a low number.

“I think everyone’s got to buy into the system,” said Alex DeBrincat. “It took us too long to get to the point where we were pissed off and not wanting to get scored on. Last year we’d win games 7-6, but hopefully this year we can not let up that many goals and still be winning games and be in the race.”

The adjustments that Colliton implemented took time to settle in, especially the man-to-man defensive zone strategy. For Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, the changes were more than he realized at first. Playing under Quenneville for so long players were used to a certain rhythm of doing things, like the tempo of practices.

“But in games, I think our defensive system changed, all those things that just kind of came naturally with how I played defensively as a forward all changed overnight and there was definitely some adjustment where we were still playing pretty good but just couldn’t find a way to win games and get over that hump once Jeremy took over,” Toews said.

Those struggles early on under Colliton included an eight-game losing streak and three wins in their first 17 games after Quenneville’s firing. But 67 games of experience for the new coach means 67 games of knowing what buttons to push for each of his players and 67 games of identifying the weaknesses that need improvement. The Blackhawks’ veterans aren’t going to put up with another season ending without a playoff berth and the road back there begins with the buying of what the head coach is selling.

“Jeremy is so detailed. He’s thought of everything. His approach is incredible, his preparation is incredible,” Toews said. “He’s great at talking to us, letting us know what he’s thinking. We’ve got to respect that he’s the boss, he’s making those decisions and he’s taking that responsibility. As a captain you sometimes have your own opinions, but you’re not always going to see perfectly eye to eye. He’s one of those guys who’s willing to hear you out and talk to you on a daily basis. 

“But having said that, there’s no guarantees. We’ve got to come to training camp ready to work knowing that we’re going to have to work really hard to get back to where we were near the end of last season.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Colliton looking forward to camp with new-look Blackhawks

AP Photo/Amr Alfiky
2 Comments

CHICAGO — Jeremy Colliton has a plan, and he has time. It feels pretty good, too.

Unlike last season, when he took over after the Chicago Blackhawks fired coach Joel Quenneville in November, Colliton gets a full training camp to implement his vision for the team. He also should have more practice time to use before the heart of the schedule increases the need for rest, and he thinks it could make a difference after Chicago missed the playoffs each of the previous two years.

”No question, it’s a big deal,” Colliton said Friday on the first day of the team’s annual fan convention. ”A chance to roll things out in a systematic way with a plan, a teaching progression, and the amount of practice time and video and conversations that are needed to really nail down how we expect the team to play. That’s exciting.”

The 34-year-old Colliton was inserted into a difficult situation for his first head coaching job in the NHL, replacing the popular Quenneville with the team in the middle of an eight-game slide. Chicago struggled to adjust to Colliton’s style, dropping 16 of his first 20 games behind the bench.

But Colliton and the Blackhawks got better the longer they were together, going 26-15-6 in their last 47 games. If they can pick up where they left off, they could put an end to what qualifies as an extended postseason drought in a city that partied with the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

”I think it took us a while to grasp on last year, probably longer than it should have,” forward Alex DeBrincat said. ”It kind of hurt us in the long run, but I mean towards that second half of the season I thought we were doing really well and winning a lot of games. With a full training camp, we can be a really good team from the start and put ourselves in a good position.”

While Colliton has strengthened his relationships with the team’s biggest stars over time, he is working with a much different group than the one he had at the end of last season. Defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta came over in a pair of June trades, goaltender Robin Lehner and center Ryan Carpenter agreed to deals in free agency and pesky forward Andrew Shaw returned to Chicago via a trade with Montreal.

The biggest outstanding question is the status of restricted free agent Brendan Perlini, who had 12 goals in 46 games after he was acquired in a November trade with Arizona that also moved Dylan Strome to the Blackhawks. Perlini and general manager Stan Bowman had no update on the situation Friday.

The 28-year-old de Haan, who is coming back from right shoulder surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season, played with Colliton in the minors. Looking back, he said he isn’t surprised to see Colliton get into coaching.

”You can see why he would be a good coach,” de Haan said. ”He’s very methodical. Smart guy. He’s climbed the ranks pretty quick, and I think there’s a reason for that.”

He certainly made an impression on the Blackhawks in his first season in charge.

”He’s really a bright guy,” star forward Patrick Kane said, ”and I think the thing he brings to the table is he’s smart, but he brings a simple approach and kind of lets you play off your instincts a little bit. I think he’s going to be a good coach for a long time.”

Colliton was a second-round pick in the 2003 NHL draft and had three goals and three assist in 57 games with the New York Islanders. He also played overseas before retiring due to post-concussion issues.

The Blackhawks’ busy offseason could create some tricky questions for training camp, but Colliton said the increased competition could help the team. After all, he has time to figure it out.

”Like anything, the longer (you are in a position), the more comfortable you get with the people around you and the responsibilities and what you want to do, it just gets easier,” he said. ”So I’m very comfortable. I’m excited.”