I can't say I was expecting this move to come out of the woodwork, especially after the weak rumors of Joel Quenneville leaving Chicago for Montreal. Today Quenneville fired assistant coach Mike Haviland, who had been on the coaching staff since 2008.
There will be talk about how Quenneville and the other assistant Mike Kitchen are good friends, and that that played a role in Haviland's firing. But Coach Q was quick to point out that his relationship with Kitchen had nothing to do with this decision. The Chicago Sun-Times cited sources that said Kitchen was also a candidate to be fired, but the decision was ultimately Quenneville's.
There will also be speculation that Quenneville fired Haviland because Havliand is considered to be head coach material, and Quenneville didn't want Haviland to take his job.
Just two years ago, when the Blackhawks hired Kitchen, GM Stan Bowman was quoted as saying "Adding Mike Kitchen and bringing back Mike Haviland bolster what is already a tremendous coaching staff under Joel’s guidance. Mike Kitchen and Joel have a great track record of working together and Mike Haviland has had a major impact on our organization’s success based on his work over the last five years."
Someone was going to have to take the heat for the team's awful special teams. The Hawks were 26th in the league on the power play, and 27th on the penalty kill. Kitchen was mostly responsible for the power play, but he'll survive, at least for now.
I think that Stan Bowman is starting to distance himself from Joel Quenneville. There's already been rumblings of a rift between Quenneville and the front office, and there were rumors of Quenneville's ouster during a nine-game losing streak in January and February. I think Bowman wants to put all the firing and hiring responsibility on Quenneville so that it will be easier to fire him if need be. Bowman didn't hire Quenneville, so maybe he wants to make a splash by hiring his own head coach if necessary.
All the pressure is on Joel Quenneville now. Two straight first round exits after winning the Stanley Cup will do that to you I guess. Quenneville has two years left on his contract, so it wouldn't at all be unprecedented for Bowman to fire him after next season if Quenneville doesn't produce a deep playoff run.
So, does Stan Bowman and company really still have faith in Joel Quenneville? Let me know what you think.