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Behind The Numbers

Blackhawks thrived under former coach Quenneville

Numbers show Chicago was one of best teams in NHL during past decade

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

Joel Quenneville was fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday after a run that saw him win the Stanley Cup three times.

It was a surprising end to his time in Chicago, which saw the Blackhawks become one of the preeminent teams in the NHL. Chicago won three championships and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first nine of Quenneville's10 full seasons.

A look behind the numbers shows why the Blackhawks thrived under Quenneville, where things went wrong starting in 2017-18 and where Chicago could be heading under new coach Jeremy Colliton.

 

What went right from 2008-09 through 2016-17

From the time Quenneville replaced Denis Savard as coach four games into the 2008-09 season though Wednesday, the Blackhawks ranked fourth in points (1,000), third in goals (2,383) and second in shot attempts (plus-3,901). Under Quenneville, the Blackhawks ranked in the top five in points per 60 minutes (7.93; fourth), assists per 60 minutes (5.01; third) and goals per 60 minutes (2.92; fourth). Since the start of the 2008-09 season, the Blackhawks are first in wins when scoring first (334) and second in wins when outshooting their opponents (282) behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (289). The success under Quenneville continued in the playoffs, where the Blackhawks rank second in postseason wins (76) behind the Penguins (82). Among the nine teams that have played at least 75 playoff games since 2008-09, the Blackhawks rank first in shot attempts (plus-410). They were the top seed in the Western Conference in the 2017 playoffs but were swept by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round.

Video: Memories: Blackhawks win first Cup in 49 years

 

What went wrong during 2017-18

When they missed the playoffs in 2017-18, the Blackhawks were fourth in SAT (plus-415) but 25th in shooting percentage plus save percentage (.989). The latter suggests that the Blackhawks had a low shooting percentage 5-on-5, including forwards Patrick Kane (7.7 percent) and Brandon Saad (6.7; minimum three games), who had the lowest 5-on-5 shooting percentage of their NHL careers, and center Jonathan Toews, who had the second-lowest of his career (7.0 percent).

Their low shooting plus save percentage last season also suggests that the Blackhawks had below-average goaltending. Corey Crawford had a .934 even-strength save percentage, sixth in the NHL (minimum 25 games) from Oct. 4 through Dec. 23. In that span, the Blackhawks went 17-13-5 and were tied for ninth in the Western Conference, one point out of a playoff spot. But Crawford didn't play after Dec. 23 because of an upper-body injury. From that point on, the Blackhawks went 16-26-5; their 37 points were the fewest in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks had the lowest 5-on-5 save percentage in the conference (.910) during the span.

 

What went wrong in 2018-19

Through Nov. 7, the Blackhawks were 10th in SAT (plus-43), but their minus-10 goal differential was second-worst in the Western Conference. Forward Nick Schmaltz, who had 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) in 78 games last season, has seven points (one goal, six assists) and is minus-6 through 14 games. Part of the dip in production can be explained by the power play, which has seven goals, tied with four other teams for second-fewest in the NHL. The penalty kill wasn't much better, ranking 23rd in the NHL (76.6 percent). At the end of the 2017-18 season, general manager Stan Bowman said, "We've got to find a way to get top 10 in both," regarding special teams.

Video: Taking a look at Quenneville's future after Chicago

 

Who they can be under Colliton

In 2017-18, his first season as coach of Rockford, Chicago's affiliate in the American Hockey League, Colliton's team ranked next-to-last in power-play percentage (15.6) in the Central Division and had the worst penalty-killing percentage in the AHL (77.4). Despite the shaky special teams, Rockford qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs and got to the conference final before losing to Texas. Under Colliton this season, Rockford had not substantially improved its power play (16.1 percent, tied for next-to-last in the division). However, the penalty kill had improved to second-best in the division (87.9 percent).

One area that Colliton could address is the Blackhawks' inability to block shots on the penalty kill. Defenseman Duncan Keith, who leads Chicago's defensemen in shorthanded time on ice (38:38), has five shorthanded blocks in 15 games, well shy of Ian Cole (Colorado Avalanche), who led the NHL with 19 as of Nov. 7.

Outside of special-teams improvement, Colliton could look to the bottom-six forwards for more depth scoring. Forwards Kane, Toews, Saad and Alex DeBrincat have combined for 31 goals; the rest of the forward group has 10. Colliton could advocate for right wing Dylan Sikura to be called up from Rockford to provide more balance. Sikura is tied for third in the AHL with 44 shots on goal and leads Rockford with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 12 games.

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