Hiring Jeremy Colliton was one thing the Blackhawks got right this season, even if they were a little late in making the coaching change.
Colliton arrived in November as the youngest coach in the NHL at 33 and took a beating his first month on the job. Once he got his footing, he steered the Hawks back into playoff contention and still had them mathematically in the wild-card race as they began the final week of the season.
Given that he had to implement his defensive approach and other elements of his style on the fly, the fact that Colliton made anything out of this season is an achievement. When he gets a full offseason and training camp, the results should be even better.
“Right from the start, you could see he’s a pretty intelligent person,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “He came in and gave us his system — obviously sometimes it takes you a little while to adjust. But as time went on, we all adapted and adjusted appropriately.
“Now you see him getting more and more comfortable coming in between periods and making in-game changes. . . . You’re going to see him get better and better as a coach as time goes on.”
Colliton has a 28-27-9 record after the Hawks lost 4-3 in overtime to the Jets on Monday.
He had never coached NHL players in any capacity before taking this job, previously running the Rockford IceHogs and a pro team in Sweden, but has navigated the locker room well. He has been willing to ride out mistakes by younger players, something that surely would’ve tested Joel Quenneville’s patience, and connected with the veterans — eight of whom are also in their 30s.
“He’s receptive to anything the captains and the leadership group have to say,” Toews said. “He tries his best to be respectful to some of these guys that have played a lot of games, but we know it’s quite clear that he’s the coach and he makes the tough decisions. It’s not always going to be popular, but there’s a great line of communication between the players and the coach.”
Kane’s 900th game
Patrick Kane has hit some impressive milestones in his 12th season and reached another Monday: 900 career games.
“It’s crazy,” Kane said at the morning skate. “It’s gone by pretty quickly, but as far as my career has gone and what’s happened here in this city and organization, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So it’s been a fun ride and looking forward to many more.”
He’s the ninth player to play 900 games for the Hawks and can move into seventh place in franchise history next season.
Forwards Brendan Perlini and John Hayden are getting a chance at redemption. Colliton had both of them in the lineup against the Jets.
Perlini went on a run of eight goals in seven games last month but fell out of favor because of his effort on the recent road trip and was a healthy scratch Saturday against the Kings. Hayden had not dressed since March 7.
The Hawks went without center David Kampf, one of their better defensive players, because of a facial injury he suffered Saturday.