Blackhawks part ways with Marc Crawford, Rob Cookson as coaching changes begin
Crawford’s departure is more notable because he had been with the Hawks for three years and had one year left on his contract as associate coach. The head-coaching search, meanwhile, should begin soon.
Two days after the Blackhawks’ season ended Friday, their coaching changes began.
Neither associate coach Marc Crawford nor assistant coach Rob Cookson will return next season, the Hawks confirmed in a statement Sunday.
‘‘They have each made significant contributions to our club and we appreciate their dedication,’’ the Hawks said in the statement. ‘‘We wish them the best in their future endeavors.’’
Cookson’s departure is hardly surprising. The 61-year-old former Flames and Senators assistant — and longtime Crawford friend — was brought to the Hawks in November to provide much-needed experience and manpower to interim coach Derek King’s short-handed staff. But his presence never seemed likely to be long-term; his contract was for this season only.
Crawford’s dismissal, however, is more notable. He had been a fixture of the Hawks’ bench for three seasons and had a year left on his contract.
The Hawks somewhat surprisingly retained him in the fall of 2019, when several physical-abuse allegations against him by players he coached with the Kings and Canucks came to light. Crawford was suspended for a month and was the subject of an investigation, but he rejoined the Hawks after apologizing for times he ‘‘crossed that line,’’ reaching out to former players and saying he had undergone nine years of counseling.
The Hawks also somewhat surprisingly retained him last fall, when Jeremy Colliton was fired and King was installed as the interim coach. Fellow assistants Sheldon Brookbank and Tomas Mitell also were fired, but Crawford and goalie coach Jimmy Waite stayed.
And Crawford seemed to fill an even bigger role under King than he did under Colliton. He basically ran many practices, especially during the first few months of King’s transition, and provided an intense, vocal, leader-type personality to balance King’s easygoing vibe.
‘‘We are really good together because we understand that you can’t take yourself too seriously,’’ Crawford said in November. ‘‘He likes to have fun. As much as I want to be serious, I also like to have fun, too. We’ve got a nice balance.’’
But Crawford’s eventful Hawks tenure came to an abrupt end Sunday. And it might be just the start of another eventful period for Hawks coaching.
General manager Kyle Davidson said April 1 that the head-coaching search would begin after the season, so it might have begun already. Even then, he already was doing ‘‘prep work and profiling on different things we want.’’ Davidson is scheduled to speak with the media again Tuesday.
King certainly will be a candidate for the job. Davidson has praised the impressive job he did in terms of reuniting the team and keeping morale up during this difficult season and has acknowledged King’s hands were tied in terms of his freedom to make tactical changes. King obviously would have more freedom — and time to implement such changes — if he were named the head coach.
King, too, has made his interest in sticking around clear.
‘‘The process will take place, and if I’m part of it, great,’’ King said last week. ‘‘If not . . . I respect their decision. I have no grudges, no nothing. This has been a great experience for me. I’m a better coach for it, and we’ll see what happens.’’
Numerous others also will be candidates. The Hawks might be hesitant to hire yet another internal interim guy after doing so with Davidson already.
Former Stars coach (now Blues assistant) Jim Montgomery, former Rangers coach David Quinn and rising European coaching star Rikard Gronborg, who works in Switzerland but widely is perceived as ready for the NHL leap, are three of the most notable available coaches around the hockey world.