The Rockford Revival

 
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How Jeremy Colliton Brought The Blackhawks Back From The Dead

The Chicago Blackhawks were dead in the water. With a losing record in early November, the team made the stunning decision to fire head coach Joel Quenneville, a 60-year-old hockey genius and the second-winningest coach in NHL history, who led Chicago to three Stanley Cup victories in the span of a decade.

Blackhawks, down. A rebuild was coming, and it might take a while.

Chicago fired Quenneville at the tail end of an eight-game losing streak. The jig was up, but who could replace the man they call “Q”?

At the time, Jeremy Colliton was coaching the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He was a 33-year-old former player entering his second year with the organization. On November 5, 2018, Colliton replaced Quenneville, a beloved Chicago icon with more years of coaching experience than Colliton’s life experience.

He inherited an underperforming team straight-jacketed by the salary cap, and he was asked to fill the shoes of a legend. Four of Chicago’s players are older than Colliton (Duncan Keith, Cam Ward, Corey Crawford, and Chris Kunitz). Just 15 games into the season and Colliton gets pulled from Rockford and thrust into a packed house at the United Center with high expectations. Good luck

And so began the rebuild. The Hawks went 4-13-3 over the next 20 games, including another eight-game losing streak in December. In January, they lost seven out of eight to start the calendar year. They were 16-24-9 one month ago with the worst record in the NHL.

Then something happened. Patrick Kane kickstarted a point streak of 17 straight games. Colliton called up rookie defenseman Carl Dahlstrom from the IceHogs, who provided a defensive spark. The Hawks started clicking and reeled off wins in seven of the last nine

After last night’s 8-7 win against the Senators – a game where Kane extended the streak to 18 games and 21-year-old Alex DeBrincat scored his fourth career hat trick – the Blackhawks now trail Minnesota by just one point in the Western Conference Wild Card race.

January 19: NHL’s worst team

February 19: Playoff contender

“If you talked to a lot of us 15 to 20 games ago, we all thought we’d be out of the playoffs,” said Patrick Kane. “It’s pretty crazy how everything’s unfolded here.”

Time will tell if Chicago finishes strong and makes a playoff push, but the Blackhawks are back from the dead thanks to a now-34-year-old coach with big shoes to fill. The youngest NHL coach by more than ten years might be the next big thing in Chicago.

 
Justin Tangfebruary2019