Earlier this morning, the Chicago Blackhawks decided their young coach deserved an extension, signing Jeremy Colliton through the 2022-23 season. Colliton is heading into his third year behind the bench in Chicago. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman released a statement explaining why the team felt an extension was warranted:
Jeremy has shown an innate ability to develop young talent throughout his two seasons as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. This, coupled with his vast knowledge of the game, exceptional communication skills and determination to win, makes us extremely confident Jeremy has what it takes to lead our team back to an elite level as we continue to build a roster that can compete year in and year out.
That first sentence is perhaps the most important, given that the Blackhawks are inching towards an existence without any of their Stanley Cup-winning core. Jonathan Toews is already absent as he deals with a health issue, Brent Seabrook is desperately trying to get back on the ice to continue his career and Duncan Keith will turn 38 in a few months. Even Patrick Kane, who is still 32, healthy, and ready to lead the Blackhawks this season has just three seasons left on his contract and will be soon entering a decline phase whether he likes it or not. Colliton’s ability to develop the next wave of Blackhawks stars is perhaps the most important task for the organization right now.
Of course, that doesn’t mean winning isn’t important. The 35-year-old coach led the Blackhawks to a playoff appearance last season, shocking the Edmonton Oilers in a qualification round before bowing out quickly to the Vegas Golden Knights. Colliton’s overall record since taking over from legendary coach Joel Quenneville is 62-58-17 and it’s not expected to improve very much this season. Chicago heads into the year with a completely unproven goaltending tandem, plenty of questions on defense and several key forwards out due to injury. It will be a challenge to be sure.