Blackhawks add Samuelsson and Granato to coaching staff
In the wake of being swept in the first round of the playoffs after a 50-win season, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman promised changes. Most of them have come behind the bench.
The Hawks completed their coaching shakeup Thursday by hiring Ulf Samuelsson and Don Granato to join Kevin Dineen as assistants on Joel Quenneville’s staff. Quenneville’s close friend Mike Kitchen, an assistant since 2010, was fired last month.
In a statement released by the team, Bowman deemed the Hawks’ revamped staff ‘‘the best in the NHL.’’
‘‘Ulf brings over 20 years of NHL experience and knows what it takes to be a Stanley Cup champion,’’ Bowman said in the statement. ‘‘Don has an extensive coaching background and has been successful at developing players at every level. Both have the leadership skills and experience to complement out staff.’’
Sources said Quenneville was surprised and upset by the firing of Kitchen, but Samuelsson fits the mold of a Quenneville confidant. Samuelsson, like Dineen, was teammates with Quenneville with the Hartford Whalers and is expected to focus on working with the defensemen, who looked overmatched by the faster, younger Nashville Predators in the playoffs. After eight years as an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers, Samuelsson was the coach of the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers last season.
‘‘This is a great opportunity to join a franchise that not only is historically popular but has also had a lot of great success recently,’’ Samuelsson said in a statement. ‘‘To be on the bench with Joel, Kevin, Don, [goaltending coach] Jimmy [Waite] and Matt [Meacham] is motivating and exciting as we work to attain the highest level of success.’’
Granato is a Downers Grove native and the brother of Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato and former NHL star Tony Granato. He served as Tony’s associate coach last season at the University of Wisconsin. He was an assistant with the St. Louis Blues in 2005-06 and the coach of the AHL’s Wolves in 2008-10.
‘‘I’m happy to be back in Chicago,’’ Granato said. ‘‘However, it is the challenge of the Blackhawks’ mandate of future success that motivates me most.’’
The Hawks also shook up the staff of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, hiring Jeremy Colliton to replace Ted Dent as coach and bringing former Hawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank on board as an assistant.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.