Sunday, July 22, 2012
Hawks brass under pressure to win
By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- For management and coaches -- let alone players -- the annual Chicago Blackhawks fan convention could someday be a contentious place to be. Two first-round playoff exits after their Stanley Cup victory don’t have fans completely boiling over, but another sub-par year might change things next July.
Coach Joel Quenneville sounds like he’s going to try his best to bring the Hawks back to an elite level.
“Two years ago [in 2011] we exited [the season] with a lot of disappointment. I thought we exited this year with anger,” Quenneville said Friday. “As a staff and players we should all have that in the back of our mind when we begin [next season].”
That statement sums up what could be a different Quenneville come training camp and beyond. If anger is his emotion of the day, then practices and accountability for in-game failures might be different.
One area of major concern will most certainly be special teams. Quenneville hired assistant Jamie Kompon earlier in the week and says there is a good chance he’ll run the power play while holdover Mike Kitchen will take on penalty-killing duties.
“He’s really improved as a hockey guy,” Quenneville said of Kompon who he hired in St. Louis first as a video coach. “Nobody works harder, no one is more dedicated. I think he’s going to be a great compliment to our staff and our team.”
As has been well-documented, this is Quenneville’s own coaching staff. He hired both current assistants after working previously with those he inherited -- although he won a Stanley Cup with them. More than anything, after wins and losses, the entire staff will be judged on the progress made by the power play and penalty-killing units after a very down year in those areas.
Stan Bowman stays out of spotlight: The Blackhawks GM wasn’t introduced to the fans during opening ceremonies on Friday as he had been in the past, but no front office personnel “walked the runway.”
With very little roster turnover after a first-round exit, some might be wondering if the Hawks did enough this offseason. But in at least one panel discussion Bowman wasn’t asked a single question from a fan -- let alone a critical one. Either way, Bowman is all right with the heat.
“You want fans that are passionate,” he said. “When things are going great they are they are passionate in supporting you but when you don’t reach your goal they can be really passionate in voicing their opinion. The alternative is fans not being into it, [which] is not the ideal situation.”
If you’re in the judgment business then at the very least this season will give definitive statements on the coaching and front office. Quenneville has his assistants and knows what went wrong last year. Bowman has made his mark on this team and has touted the youth in the organization. And by not turning over the roster he’s saying he believes in his personnel decisions over the last 12 months or so.
We’ll find out soon enough if the Hawks have what it takes -- both in coaching and personnel -- to return to elite status.