Quenneville fired as coach of Blackhawks, Colliton named replacement
Three-time winner of Stanley Cup was longest-tenured in NHLNHL.com @NHLdotcom
Joel Quenneville was fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
Jeremy Colliton, 33, who coached Rockford of the American Hockey League, was named as Quenneville's replacement, becoming the 38th coach in Blackhawks history and the youngest coach in the NHL.
"It's an honor to [be with] the Blackhawks, an Original Six franchise and fantastic city, tradition of success, and I'll do everything I can to build on that," Colliton said. "I need to say thank you to Joel also. He's a big part of why I wanted to come to the organization in the first place and he was great to me. He treated me so well, and for that reason it's bittersweet to be succeeding him."
The Blackhawks (6-6-3) have lost five straight games and are sixth in the Central Division, two points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Chicago missed the playoffs last season and was knocked out in the first round each of the two previous seasons after winning the Cup three times from 2009-10 to 2014-15.
"A decision like this isn't made on one game, one play, or one specific thing. It's sort of a collection of things," general manager Stan Bowman said. "Certainly the road trip (three losses) was concerning. But I think even heading into that, there were some elements to our game where they weren't where they needed to be. It's not just based off the record of the team, so it's more a totality of circumstances than it is just based on one specific game."
Quenneville, 60, is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, with 890 victories, second to Scotty Bowman (1,244). Quenneville ranks second in NHL history in games coached, behind Bowman (2,141).
"The guy breeds winning," Blackhawks forward Patick Kane said. "... The one thing that just sticks out is his passion and his excitement to try and win hockey games, so that will definitely be a void that we'll try to fill in here."
Quenneville, who replaced Denis Savard as Chicago coach Oct. 16, 2008, was 452-249-96 in 11 seasons with the Blackhawks, including Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015. He was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL.
"[President John McDonough] came to me, and Stan, and we talked about this," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said. "We talked about it last year, how we talked about it this year. And you have to put the team, the organization and the company first, and it's easy from 20,000 feet to criticize, but until you're on the firing line and making a decision, the biggest problem, in my humble opinion, executives have is not making a decision. Because if you don't make a decision, you're never wrong. Now our decisions are looked at every day, are written or heard or seen every day. So that comes with the territory.
"So I was very much in favor of what John and Stan talked about. We knew Jeremy was in the wings, that he could always, maybe sometime, fill that job. We hoped it wouldn't be today, because we always want Joel to do well. Because he's such a class act, we think so much of Joel, but this wasn't in the cards. So criticism comes, but the only way you overcome criticism is by winning."
Chicago named Barry Smith as assistant on Colliton's staff, and fired Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson, assistants to Quenneville.
"I wouldn't label it as a rebuilding, I would reference it more as a remodeling," McDonough said. "You still have Hall of Fame players, my expectations are that this is a playoff team. And if you get in, anything can happen. So that is the phase that we are in right now. You never know whether to call it a rebuild or a remodel. We want to win. We want to rewin. ... Sometimes, as painful as it is, you need a fresh start."
Quenneville was 890-532-137 with 77 ties in 22 seasons as an NHL coach with the St. Louis Blues, Avalanche and Blackhawks.
Colliton was 12 games into his second season with Rockford, which was 40-28-4-4 last season, advancing to the Western Conference Finals. The Rockford position was Colliton's first coaching job in North America. His first game with the Blackhawks will be Thursday, when Chicago plays the Carolina Hurricanes at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, FS-CR, NHL.TV).
"The challenge is to hit the ground running," Colliton said. "We don't have much time. We play Thursday. We had a good practice today, good energy. We pushed on some things that we want the guys to focus on. It's just communication with everyone, as early as possible, with as many as possible, so that everyone is on the same page and we know what the plan is. We plan to win. That's the priority right now."
Prior to joining the Blackhawks organization, Colliton coached Mora IK of the Swedish Hockey League for four seasons and was 98-57-18.
"For me, it's the experience I've had of getting to know Jeremy over the past year and a half, and watching the way his teams play and watching the way that he handles the team and his strengths as a coach are things which I think are going to help our group get to the next level," Bowman said. "So there's no question that experience can be beneficial. Winning is pretty important as well, and if you look back, Jeremy [has] had a lot of success for a guy who doesn't have a long number of years as a coach."
Colliton had six points (three goals, three assists) in 57 games during five seasons as a center with the New York Islanders from 2005-11. He was selected by the Islanders in the second round (No. 58) of the 2003 NHL Draft.
"It is different, considering what we're used to, but from what I hear and what I've seen so far, he, Jeremy Colliton brings a lot of, I guess, youthful energy to the game and I think he's got a lot of experience on the ice as well," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think he understands how to get through to young guys and get through to each player and get the best out of them. [I] heard nothing but good things from the guys that played for him in Rockford last year, just looking forward to what he can bring to our team here."
NHL.com correspondent Scott King contributed to this report.