Haviland Out, It’s All on Coach Q. Now

Chicago (FOX Chicago News) -

Let’s start off with some good news which came out of Tuesday’s media conference call after the firing of assistant coach Mike Haviland.

For all those worried about Joel Quenneville being dismissed as head coach to take the same position in Montreal, that’s not happening. Quenneville stated he wants to finish out the final two years of his contract with the Blackhawks. So Quenneville is about as secure as a head coach can be, for now.

Evidently Blackhawk management is all in on Quenneville. GM Stan Bowman determined the root of the problem last season to be some dysfunction in Quenneville’s coaching staff. Following their playoff elimination, according to Quenneville, he was given the opportunity to replace any of his assistants.

Mike Haviland, who wasn’t an original hire of Quenneville, was fired Tuesday. Interestingly, Haviland was thought to be in line for the Hawks head coaching spot once Quenneville was gone. Some would say that’s the main reason Haviland is no longer around. Others believe Quenneville deserved to pick his own coaching staff and never had the chance. Then there are some who think there was going to be a fall guy and Quenneville was never going to dump his close friend and assistant coach Mike Kitchen.

Blackhawks fans can determine for themselves or take one of the reasons above as to why Haviland was shown the door. What was certainly apparent Tuesday is Quenneville spent a great deal of time defending Kitchen.

The power play and penalty killing units were both bad last season. The power play especially was consistently awful throughout the campaign. Many had the view Kitchen was the one who designed the power play and led practices. Quenneville admitted the same and maybe that’s why he felt a compulsion to defend his buddy.

Quenneville mentioned Haviland started out directing the power play for the first 15 games. At that point, the Hawks ranked last in the league in power play efficiency and Quenneville gave the assignment to Kitchen. That means through the next 67 regular season games and six in the playoffs, it was Kitchen who was mostly responsible for the power play. That would be mostly accountable for the power play of the assistants, because head coach Quenneville is ultimately responsible for everything.

The Blackhawks power play, except for a brief period ranked close to the bottom of the league. For the regular season, the Hawks ranked 26th out of 30 teams. They scored only one time out of 19 opportunities during the postseason. Maybe that’s why Quenneville spent much of the time defending Kitchen on Tuesday citing that his character shouldn’t be questioned.

Quenneville was bothered by the criticism Kitchen has taken from fans and media alike during the season. That’s understandable but measured on performance, Kitchen could easily be taken to task.

Quenneville was careful not to lay the blame completely on Haviland. That was wise considering Haviland apparently was only chiefly responsible for the power play for 15 games. Quenneville did make one admission, and he would have been wrong not to do so. He admitted he stuck with the same players too often on the power play. Quenneville seems to be implying that some entitlement has entered into the thinking of certain players.

It sounds good to say power play should be earned. It also makes sense for Quenneville to share the blame because no matter how much his assistants had to do with designing the power play structure it is Quenneville’s job to put the players on the ice. Although it is not Quenneville’s job to create the roster, that’s on GM Bowman.

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