SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Blackhawks were mired in a bleak patch, arguably their worst in a decade, early in Jeremy Colliton’s time as coach. He stepped in when they fired Joel Quenneville and quickly slid into an eight-game losing streak.
But he was resolute throughout, and that’s what confirmed to general manager Stan Bowman that he was the right man to lead this team.
“You start to wonder how you’re going to handle all that stress of not having the results,” Bowman said. “But he had a great attitude about it. He never got frustrated; he never doubted himself.
“He just kept saying, ‘We’re close to breaking through; we’ve just got to stick with this. . . . I know it’s going to turn around.’ And it did. It just took some time.”
The Hawks snapped their skid with a decisive victory against the Penguins, which launched their 6-2-1 run heading into the Winter Classic on Tuesday against the Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium.
Colliton, 33, began the season coaching in Rockford and has only been part of the organization since May 2017. The stunning promotion to replace Quenneville gave him his first NHL opportunity.
Not only was he adjusting to a new league with new personnel, but he implemented several changes to the Hawks’ playing style. He did that without the benefit of an offseason and training camp — not much practice time, either, because of the schedule — and appeared completely at ease with the transition.
“I don’t know if I’ve been surprised,” Bowman said. “I spent a lot of time with him last year when he was in Rockford. . . . Obviously, it’s a bigger stage, there’s more media in the NHL and those types of things, but he’s handled it really well.
“For a young guy, he’s able to put a lot of things together and process it quickly and have the conviction to stick with it. I think that’s the thing that’s impressed me the most.”
In addition to assessing Colliton’s progress, Bowman is charged with evaluating exactly what this team is. Are the Hawks as bad as their record — tied for the sixth-fewest points in the league at 36 — or is their recent success proof that the roster can compete?
“We don’t like where we are in the standings, but we like the way our team looks now,” Bowman said. “Now we’re more like the team we want to be.”