Blackhawks hire Rob Cookson, Jared Nightingale to flesh out coaching staffsBen Popeon November 18, 2021 at 12:03 am

Marc Crawford was also nominally promoted Wednesday to Blackhawks associate coach. | Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Under interim coach Derek King, Marc Crawford was retitled associate coach and Cookson — who brings experience with the Flames, Senators and in Switzerland — was named assistant coach.

SEATTLE — The Blackhawks have survived with a shorthanded coaching staff during the past two weeks since Jeremy Colliton’s firing.

But help is finally on the way.

Rob Cookson will meet the team this weekend in Edmonton as their new assistant coach, part of several changes announced Tuesday and Wednesday.

Marc Crawford was retitled as associate coach, cementing his large share of the responsibilities next to Hawks interim coach Derek King. And Jared Nightingale was hired as the Rockford IceHogs’ new assistant coach under their interim coach, Anders Sorensen.

Cookson, 60, brings ample familiarity with the specifics of NHL assistant coaching, having filled that role from 2001 to 2011 with the Flames and from 2016 to 2019 with the Senators. Neither King, with his entirely minor-league coaching experience, nor Crawford, who has spent most of his career as a head coach, offer quite the same background.

“Rob’s extensive NHL experience will complement our staff immediately,” interim general manager Kyle Davidson said in a statement. “It’s his fresh perspective, however, that will really benefit the team as we work on this transition.”

Cookson’s hiring further strengthens Crawford’s influence in the Hawks’ current hierarchy, not only through his nominal promotion but also because of their long history together.

Cookson served as an assistant under Crawford with Zurich SC in Switzerland from 2012 to 2016, during which time Zurich posted a ridiculous 125-47-28 record. The two then moved together to Ottawa, working underneath Guy Boucher for the next three years.

With Cookson’s most recent gig as an assistant for another Swiss club, HC Lugano, ending in April, Crawford presumably suggested him for the Hawks’ vacancy — the filling of which had been Davidson’s first priority after naming King interim coach. King said he was quickly won over, too.

“I haven’t been around for a while with these guys, but I have a good relationship with [Marc], and when [Cookson’s] name came up, I was like, ‘Well, let me have a little FaceTime with him,'” King said Wednesday. “I had great conversations with him and he’s going to be a good fit for us.”

King and Crawford have operated almost as equals so far. Crawford has been coaching the Hawks’ defensemen, pre-scouting opponents, orchestrating practice drills and giving King in-game matchup tips.

Even their contrasting personalities — with Crawford as intense as King is easygoing — have seemingly meshed seamlessly.

“If I don’t lean on a guy like that, I’m not very smart,” King said. “He’s been around this game a long time, and…he’s helped me out so much, and the rest of the staff. They’ve been tremendous with me making my transition a lot, lot easier.”

“[King and Crawford] both read off each other well and control the room and let us know what they expect,” Kirby Dach explained. “And at the same time, they let us control ourselves, in a way.”

Meanwhile, down in Rockford, Sorensen had been coaching without any assistants at all until Nightingale — a longtime minor-league defenseman, former IceHogs captain and family friend of Sorensen — arrived this week.

Nightingale will oversee the IceHogs’ defensemen and penalty kill while Peter Aubry continues his goalie coaching and Sorensen focuses on the forwards and big-picture duties.

“With all the shuffling in the [Blackhawks’] organization the last couple weeks, I never would’ve thought it’d affect my life,” Nightingale said Tuesday. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity, not only to be in the American League but also at a place where I’ve played and I’m familiar with.”

Sorensen — in his seventh year in the organization — said the past two weeks at least haven’t been as chaotic for him as they have been for King, whom he still talks to every day about hockey, family and everything in between.

“It’s been fine; I’m pretty comfortable here,” Sorensen said. “It’s just more managing people and managing schedules and all that.”

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