Rozner: Blackhawks' Colliton finding his voice

  • Jeremy Colliton took his time last season locating the proper demeanor for a veteran Blackhawks team, but he's now clearly in charge.

    Jeremy Colliton took his time last season locating the proper demeanor for a veteran Blackhawks team, but he's now clearly in charge. Associated Press File Photo/July 2019

Updated 10/13/2019 5:45 PM

It was not the easiest of spots Jeremy Colliton walked into last season.

Replacing a Hall of Fame coach with a veteran core and a group that couldn't locate its own netminder -- while trying to introduce a new system during the season -- he had his hands full.


Colliton was also careful to quietly establish his own presence behind the bench and in the locker room, moving slowly and creating trust with his players.

It was smart to tread lightly considering the circumstances, but there is little question now that he's in charge.

It's evident in many ways, including how quickly he yanked Alex Nylander and Slater Koekkoek from the lineup, a wise choice given how poorly they played in the home opener Thursday, and his decision to promote or demote players based on performance, not on salary, reputation or popularity.

But it's also easy to see in his postgame remarks, where he has opened two consecutive pressers at home with comments rather than wait for questions.

"I would have liked us to respond a little better to the adversity that we faced because we're gonna face a lot this year, so that's a bit of a message to the team," Colliton said Thursday night, minus prompting. "We've got to do the things we talk about for 60 (minutes). We have a good enough team and good enough players."

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When asked how he would implement that sense of urgency, Colliton said, "Oh, we have it. We're not happy with the result. We're not happy with the effort over 60 minutes, and I expect we'll respond."

The Hawks did respond with their best period of the year Saturday, a terrific opening 20 minutes against Winnipeg, followed by another dreadful second period.

"I thought it was a better effort overall. The first period was closer to what it should look like," Colliton said Saturday night. "Second period, we seemed to be late to a lot of situations and they were able to tilt the game on us. Third period was better.

"As I said to the team, we need to find a way to play that style and energy and pace of the first 20 minutes. We need to extend that to 60 and then I think we'll be in good shape.


"It's a mini-step forward."

But that miserable middle stanza.

"It's been three (games) in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are. The best teams dominate the second period," Colliton said. "It's a point of emphasis for us.

"We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory and out-change the other team. We're not close to where we want to be in that area."

If you're already bored by the head coach saying his team needs a 60-minute effort, get used to it because this is the theme until it isn't.

The Hawks played about 20 minutes in the opener in Prague, 30 minutes against San Jose in the home opener and close to 40 minutes in Game 3 Saturday, which ended in an overtime loss to Winnipeg.

At 0-2-1 it's not easy to see, but this is a better Hawks roster -- more physical, faster and with better defenders -- capable of playing good hockey.

With so many changes, not to mention injured players just entering the lineup, and the search for line combos and defensive pairs, it's a work in progress.

The problem is they don't have time to waste because the conference gets away quickly these days and two games into a seven-game homestand the Hawks have to get it going.

"We haven't quite decided yet that we're willing to do the right thing every time, every shift for 60 minutes. That's what the teams do that have success," Colliton said. "No one's perfect. We're not gonna be perfect. We're gonna make mistakes, but the mistakes we make have to have the right intention to do the right thing."

Colliton is sending the correct message both publicly and in the dressing room.

How the team responds is up to the players. And those who don't respond properly might just find themselves watching from the press box.

In that regard, Jeremy Colliton seems to have found his voice.

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