Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton

Chris Emma/670 The Score

Zawaski: Are Hawks Really Jeremy Colliton's Team?

The addition of Barry Smith to Colliton's staff has raised some eyebrows.

Jay Zawaski
November 07, 2018 - 11:23 am

(670 The Score) Are the Blackhawks Jeremy Colliton’s team or not?

On Tuesday, I shared my feelings about the firing of coach Joel Quenneville. Now, I wanted to look ahead to the Colliton era, which begins when the Blackhawks host the Hurricanes on Thursday night at the United Center.

Despite his youth, the 33-year-old Colliton was considered a solid head coaching candidate before his promotion became official Tuesday. He was poised to replace Quenneville whenever he departed, and while it came sooner than expected, I’m excited to see what Colliton can bring. 

I spoke with two sources Tuesday about Colliton. Both were optimistic about his hiring.

"I wish (Colliton) had a little more experience, but he is really good," one source said. "He likes analytics and is open to all information. He’s a good communicator and motivator. His teams play with energy. That will be the biggest and most noticeable difference. He’s a really smart hockey guy and a good guy. I think he will be great."

The other source echoed many of those thoughts.

"He’s much more ‘modern,’" the source said. "He embraces all information. He’s open-minded and uses newer systems. He’s already been working with the younger players and is the right guy for where this team is heading ... going younger with the system kids coming in to the fold."

Despite your feelings about how Quenneville was dismissed, you should be excited about the Colliton era.

That said...

I worry about the presence of new assistant coach Barry Smith. For those of you who don’t know, Smith was Scotty Bowman’s right-hand man throughout his coaching career (similar to Mike Kitchen with Quenneville) and joined the Blackhawks in 2011, serving as the club's director of player evaluation, director of player development, European development advisor and a pro scout. Now, he's on Colliton's staff.

Smith has worked with the majority of Blackhawks prospects and knows them well. There's no questioning his qualifications. He has skins on the wall and a lot of experience, but I can’t shake the memories of 2012. Back then, the Blackhawks had been struggling, especially on the power play. The Bowmans sent Smith from the front offices to the ice to "assist" Quenneville with the power play. That reportedly led to Quenneville confronting general manager Stan Bowman, telling him to either get Smith off the ice or he'd be leaving. Bowman conceded, and Smith went back to work behind the scenes.

My fear is that the Bowmans, with the help of Smith, won't give Colliton full control of the team. The last thing a young head coach needs is the meddling of a Bowman henchman. If he’s going to earn the respect of this veteran laden team, he’ll have to be the man in charge, full stop. 

Maybe Smith is a true assistant. If so, he’s certainly qualified and could be an asset to Colliton. It’s just hard for me to look at this objectively with the ugliness of 2012 still fresh in my mind. 

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and a columnist for 670 The Score. He also is the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​​