Jeremy Colliton stuck in limbo as Blackhawks’ coach entering post-Stan Bowman eraBen Popeon October 31, 2021 at 11:30 am

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton’s future security is unclear. | AP Photos

With his biggest supporter having resigned and his team struggling on the ice, Colliton’s future as the Hawks’ coach is uncertain.

ST. LOUIS — Until last week, Jeremy Colliton was all but a singular unit with general manager Stan Bowman for the entirety of his Blackhawks coaching tenure.

Bowman handpicked Colliton to replace Joel Quenneville in 2018, conferred with him closely on most of his personnel decisions and stood loyally behind him through every low point.

But after Bowman’s resignation last week — following the Jenner & Block investigation’s confirmation that he helped cover up the 2010 sexual assault of Kyle Beach — Colliton has been left in limbo.

The young coach was playing in Sweden in 2010, nowhere near Chicago and the tragic decisions that occurred at the time, so he’s clear on the moral front. But even as that dark cloud hangs over — and largely renders irrelevant — the Hawks’ on-ice struggles, Colliton at least must be held accountable for his team’s awful performance so far.

It’s unclear, given the enormous turnover in the Hawks’ front office in recent years, whether anyone is currently in position to do that. But if anyone is, it’s interim GM Kyle Davidson.

Colliton’s relationship with Davidson isn’t anywhere nearly as developed as it was with Bowman, but they do have some familiarity to build on. Colliton insists they’re on the ”same page” about the Hawks’ plan.

”Just like working with Stan, Kyle and I are talking multiple times a day about the team and how we’re going to get better,” Colliton said Saturday. ”That’s an ongoing thing. Kyle was involved in a lot of those conversations before. No one’s happy with where we’re at, and we have to turn this around.”

In the long run, the Hawks’ GM shift from Bowman to Davidson to a potential permanent replacement will leave Colliton’s job security on thin ice.

Bowman, after all, was as faithful and devoted to Colliton as anyone could be. The same can’t be said for Davidson, whose viewpoints are complete mysteries right now, or a hypothetical future GM. One could argue many GMs already would have fired Colliton after three losing seasons and a disastrous start to his fourth, and there’s a very real chance Davidson and/or the future GM would agree with that.

In the short term, however, the Hawks’ GM shift probably buys Colliton a little more time.

The Jenner & Block investigation represented a tornado roaring through and decimating the front office. The Hawks likely will make cleaning up that mess, rather than creating an hole to fill behind the bench, their first priority.

In the meantime, Colliton has continued harping on some of his common emphases this season — defensemen pinching less aggressively, one forward staying high in the zone to limit counterattacks, etc. — and hoping they eventually start clicking.

”We all have to be better,” he said before the game Saturday against the Blues. ”We have to have the mindset we’re prepared to win 1-0. . . . Make it hard on them to create chances. Make it hard on them to create offense.”

He also is using his head-coaching role to reflect on improving hockey culture in the wake of the sexual-assault fallout. By doing that alone, he’s proving himself at least more deserving of his position than Bowman was.

”What I’ve been thinking about is the victims — Kyle [Beach], in particular — and his courage coming forward and what he’s been through,” Colliton said Friday.

”And as far as my own situation . . . those of us in leadership positions, we have to do a better job of taking responsibility to the people we’re serving and creating an environment where they feel like they can come to us with things and that they know we have their best interest at heart.

”That’s what we have to do. That’s what we have to learn from. And we’ve got to deliver.”

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