CHICAGO (MCT) — After a season during which special teams were anything but special and there was a second consecutive exit in the first round of the playoffs, someone was going to take the fall for the Blackhawks’ failures.
That someone was assistant coach Mike Haviland, who was fired Tuesday after four seasons behind the bench.
Coach Joel Quenneville lowered the boom on the man he inherited to stand on one side of him on the bench, choosing to oust Haviland and keep Mike Kitchen in the fold.
After the season, Quenneville and Bowman met and concluded there was “some dysfunction” to the coaching staff. Quenneville felt some change was needed.
“(Bowman) did offer me the opportunity for the first time since I’ve been here ... (to) make a coaching change,” Quenneville said. “It was not an easy decision. It was tough on Mike. I’m respectful for the job that he did. It’s not the blame game here.”
During a conference call with reporters to discuss Haviland’s firing, Quenneville also shot down speculation about his job status, saying, “I have two years left on my contract and I’m very happy here.”
Haviland began the season in charge of the power play, which along with the penalty kill, were problem areas for the Hawks all season. After 15 games, Kitchen, whom Quenneville added to his staff in July 2010, took over that role while Haviland focused on the penalty kill.
Neither got on track as the Hawks finished 26th in the NHL with a 15.2 percent success rate with a man advantage and 27th on the penalty kill at 78.1 percent. In the end, those units were big factors in the Hawks’ early elimination and apparently were factors in Haviland’s dismissal.
“It was my decision,” Quenneville said. “It could have been status quo as well. As far as who comes in, I still have the options to bring in one guy or even more than one.
“There might be some people (who will say) I chose to keep a friend or a buddy or a guy who has had an acquaintance with me in the past,” Quenneville added, referring to Kitchen as the pair worked together previously. “I don’t look at people like that to get opportunities to coach in our league. I have a lot of respect for how challenging the requirements are that make a successful coach. I have a lot of respect for Mike Kitchen and the job he has done.”
In recent days, it was rumored that Quenneville would be a candidate for the Canadiens’ coaching vacancy with friend Marc Bergevin leaving the Hawks organization to take over as GM in Montreal.
He says that’s not the case.
“I’m excited about being here in Chicago,” he said. “I love the opportunity, I love the organization (and) I love where we’re heading in the future. That’s something I want to put to bed.”