Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman sets record straight
COLOGNE, Germany — Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has seen the reports and has a message for anyone who thinks his firing of assistant Mike Kitchen was a warning shot directed at coach Joel Quenneville.
Speaking with the Sun-Times on Friday at the world hockey championships, Bowman dismissed that notion.
‘‘People think that’s the case, even though there’s no validity to it,’’ said Bowman, a member of the advisory group for the U.S. men’s national team. ‘‘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 said he hasn’t set a deadline to replace Kitchen. He also said Quenneville will play a significant role in the hiring process.
‘‘We’re not delaying it by any means, but you want to make sure you get the right person,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘Joel’s going to play a big role in that because he’s going to be working with that person day-to-day.’’
Kitchen coached with Quenneville at several stops in his NHL career and joined the Hawks after their Stanley Cup victory in 2010. It will be hard to replace that kind of chemistry, but the Hawks will try.
‘‘[The decision] is definitely going to be a joint collaboration,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘The coaches spend every day and several hours every day together. I interact with them, but not to the level they do.’’
Bowman spends most of his time working on the roster, which he already has begun to retool. He recently traded backup goalie Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes, then re-signed winger Richard Panik to a two-year extension Thursday.
The Hawks acquired a third-round draft pick for Darling — a nice return for a pending free agent — and Panik’s new deal assures Quenneville the option of keeping him on center Jonathan Toews’ line.
‘‘The big thing is, he found some chemistry with Jonathan,’’ Bowman said of Panik, who had career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44) this season. ‘‘When you find that, you’d like to try and keep that going, so Jonny doesn’t have to start over next year. I don’t know if that’s going to be the line again; they may change things around. But at least we know going into the year that we have that.’’
As for Darling, the decision was easy from a business standpoint. He went from being a journeyman to being a highly regarded backup for Corey Crawford in three seasons and was ready to become a starter elsewhere.
‘‘I met with Scott at the end of the year, and he made it clear, in a very nice way: ‘My time has come to be a No. 1, and I know you guys have a great goalie here,’ ’’ Bowman said. ‘‘There was really no way to do anything else, other than the fact we were able to get a pretty good asset.’’
Bowman said he thinks winger Tomas Jurco, 24, is a another good asset, even though he scored only one goal in 13 games after the Hawks acquired him from the Detroit Red Wings. Jurco can become a restricted free agent this summer, but it sounds as though the Hawks are likely to re-sign him.
‘‘I think he’s going to be way better next year, just because he’s going to be a lot more prepared and he’s a lot healthier,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘The opportunity’s there for him. He’s just got to take it.’’
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