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Blackhawks prepare for changes under new coach Colliton

Veterans open to different mindset working with 33-year-old

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Jeremy Colliton wrapped up his first practice as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday with a simple message.

"Come ready to learn, come ready to listen tomorrow," defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "'Bring your minds,' is what he said."

It will be a different mindset with Colliton, who will make his NHL coaching debut when the Blackhawks host the Carolina Hurricanes at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, FS-CR, NHL.TV).

 

[RELATED: Colliton becomes coach of Blackhawks, youngest in NHLQuenneville fired as coach of Blackhawks, Colliton named replacement]

 

Colliton takes over for Joel Quenneville, who was fired 15 games into his 11th season with Chicago. Assistants Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson were also fired. Goaltending coach Jimmy Waite and assistant Don Granato remain on Colliton's staff. Barry Smith, formerly Blackhawks director of player evaluation, was added as an assistant.

It's quite a change. Quenneville, 60, won 890 NHL games, second to Scotty Bowman (1,244) on the all-time list. Quenneville was 452-249-96 with Chicago, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Colliton, 33, who was promoted from Rockford of the American Hockey League, is the youngest coach in the NHL.

Colliton will have to adapt fast with the Blackhawks, who are 6-6-3, sixth in the Central Division, seven points behind the first-place Nashville Predators. The process began Tuesday when Colliton ran a 45-minute practice, implementing new 3-on-2 and 2-on-2 drills. Players said they expected more changes Wednesday.

"I think Jeremy referenced it earlier that we're not going to reinvent the wheel here and try to put in an entirely new package [in], because we don't have a lot of time to do that," Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said. "Each coach has certain things that are critical for the team to succeed and they're not always the same, and I think we have to allow that to happen.

"I don't have a time frame on that, but I think you have to have an understanding that there's going to be a period of time. Games are going on, so we're not trying to be really patient with it, but we have to do our best to be as good as we can starting Thursday."

Colliton was 98-57-18 in four seasons as coach of Mora IK in the Swedish Hockey League (2013-17). He was 40-28-4-4 last season for Rockford, which advanced to the AHL Western Conference Finals for the first time. His youth helped him identify with players in Rockford. He must now find the same connection with Blackhawks veterans who spent most of their NHL careers with Quenneville.

Center Jonathan Toews, right wing Patrick Kane, Seabrook and defenseman Duncan Keith won the Cup three times with Quenneville, who had experience with the St. Louis Blues (1996-2004) and Colorado Avalanche (2005-08) before he became Blackhawks coach Oct. 16, 2008.

But the Blackhawks said they weren't concerned about Colliton's lack of NHL experience or his age.

"It's different considering what we're used to, but from what I've heard and seen so far, Jeremy Colliton brings a lot of youthful energy to the game and he has a lot of experience on the ice as well," said Toews, the 30-year-old Blackhawks captain. "He understands how to get through to young guys and get through to each player and get the best from them. I heard nothing but the best things from the guys in Rockford who played with him last year."

Rockford general manager Mark Bernard said, "[Jeremy] has a good hockey IQ but he's also full of personality. He'll have no problem speaking with our younger players, a lot of whom he's worked with already. But with the older players, I don't think there'll be any issues.

"At the end of the day, all hockey players want feedback. They want to get better as individuals. And that's what he's there to do. He loves using video, loves sitting down 1-on-1 with guys, and I think it's not going to be an issue at all."

The Blackhawks made a lot of changes Tuesday. Colliton is a new face with a new approach. They hope he can help them find their former success.

"I want every guy in the room to play for the team, put team success before individual success," Colliton said. "We got a lot of good players. If they all have team priorities, then there's going to be a lot of good things happen on the ice."

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