RALEIGH, N.C. -- As an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s seen but rarely heard from, and Mike Haviland is getting the rare pleasure of coaching in an NHL All-Star game.
“Usually a lot of head [coaches] come,” Haviland said as All-Star weekend kicked off. “To be a part of this off of last year’s success and maybe ride the coattails of [Joel Quenneville] a little bit here, it’s outstanding.”
Haviland is in his third season as a Hawks assistant after serving as a head coach in the organization for three years in the minors, both in Norfolk and Rockford. Per team policy, assistant coaches are not permitted to do interviews during the season but as a coach in the All-star game, Haviland was able to open up about his own goals and the shaky first half of the Hawks’ season:
With a 26-20-4 record, Haviland knows there is frustration among fans.
“They have every right to be frustrated,” he said. “They pay their money to come in. We’ve been inconsistent this year. That’s the word that mostly comes to mind for me. I think we are progressing in the right way.”
One part of the Hawks’ game that has been consistent -- as in consistently mediocre -- is their penalty killing. Haviland is charge of it and he’s not happy it’s ranked 26th in the league.
“Early on, we might have been looking to score goals instead of just killing a penalty,” he stated. “We’ve gotten better the last couple games, but early on, we just weren’t committed the way we needed to. We were cheating in all little areas.”
As for the team’s overall struggles through the first 50 games, Haviland understands why the “hangover” cliché exists.
“I think there is truth to the hangover for sure,” he said. “Early on, I think the schedule kind of hurt us but I think Quenneville has handled it great. There is no yelling or screaming or panic on his part at all. The guys know that and we know it as coaches too. That’s why being around a veteran coach like that is good for our team, it’s good for our organization that he’s not panicking. The [Hawks turnaround is] coming now, it’s coming.”
Blackhawks leadership is being tested and Haviland admits their young core had some learning to do early on this year.
“I think they understand it now,” Haviland said. “Early on I think they were always looking at it like, ‘there is always next week, we know we can turn it up when we have to.’ ”
As an assistant, Haviland goes to those leaders to get the word out when the coaches feel something needs to be addressed. He knew some of the Hawks when he coached them in the minors but as for the leaders, that’s a bond he’s grown over time.
“I feel like [Patrick Sharp] and [Brent] Seabrook and [Jonathan] Toews are guys… you can get your point across to them and they can spread it through the room pretty quick,” he explained. “With Tazer there are a lot of things you don’t have to say, because he takes care of it pretty quick.”
Haviland would like to be a head coach in the NHL someday. He said it was a tough decision to leave Rockford to be an assistant, but understood he needed to learn how things were done in the NHL.
“There is a difference in the leagues, obviously,” Haviland said. “With the money and guys attitudes. In the minors you can get away with, I don’t want to say threatening them, but being a little harder on them. Here, at times, it’s a fine line you have to walk.”
Haviland says there is no timetable to taking the next step in his career.
“I’m in the best organization, I feel, in the league. I work with great guys so, no, there is no timetable.”