Blackhawks agree to contract extension with head coach Colliton

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Blackhawks agreed to terms with head coach Jeremy Colliton on a two-year contract extension Tuesday that runs through the 2022-23 season.

    The Blackhawks agreed to terms with head coach Jeremy Colliton on a two-year contract extension Tuesday that runs through the 2022-23 season. Associated Press/2018

 
 
Updated 1/12/2021 12:54 PM

As early birthday presents go, it doesn't get much better than the two-year contract extension the Blackhawks handed to Jeremy Colliton on Tuesday.

"I'm excited about it and grateful for the trust they've shown in me," said Colliton, who turns 36 Wednesday and now has a deal that runs through the 2022-23 campaign.

 

Colliton has been on quite the roller-coaster ride during his short NHL coaching career.

It started by being named Joel Quenneville's successor, a tough task for anyone let alone a 33-year-old with no previous experience in the league. Part of the trial-by-fire process included trying to win over three-time Stanley Cup champions Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Not only that, but he also tried teaching them a completely new defensive system on the fly.

"I imagine that would be hard to deal with," defenseman Connor Murphy said. "He's handled it well and definitely you can see ... (he's) confident in what he has to teach us -- and even teach those older guys on our team."

Success was fleeting, if not nonexistent, at first, but eventually the Hawks started winning and even threatened to become a playoff team in his first season.

Last year Colliton benched Seabrook three times, which could have easily fractured their relationship. And it's possible that happened for a time, but the two had a lengthy on-ice chat at the end of last summer's training camp before Seabrook announced he would not be traveling to Edmonton for the playoffs.

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And if all that wasn't enough, let's not forget about the chorus of boos that cascaded down upon Colliton on many nights at the United Center after he was introduced by the public address announcer.

He's persevered through it all and has now been handed the reigns to this Original Six team for at least three more seasons.

"With the direction we're heading, I felt that Jeremy's a big part of that and someone that I'm excited to work with," GM and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman said. "(With) the way that we see the game ... and what we want to focus on in the coming years I think he's a great candidate to move that forward."

Unlike with Quenneville, Bowman seems to have a much more open relationship with Colliton. Their overall philosophies on player development and how to grow a young team into a winner certainly appear to mesh.

Having said that, Colliton also likes that they don't agree on everything.

"That's healthy, that's natural," Colliton said. "He's going to make me better and look at things in a different way, and that hopefully helps me to make better decisions in the moment. ... And vice, versa. It's my job to bring up things (the coaches) see with the team to him. It's always going to be like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We need to have a shared vision of how the Blackhawks are going to be an elite team, and work together every step of the way. Part of that is going to be a push and pull. I don't see the game exactly the same as him, and you wouldn't want that."

Colliton began his coaching career by spending four years in Sweden with Mora IK, then was hired to coach the Rockford IceHogs in 2017. He helped guide the Hawks to the Stanley Cup playoffs last season (although the Hawks were the 24th team to qualify in a once-in-a-lifetime expanded field) and they ended up upsetting Edmonton before falling to Vegas in five games.

Before becoming a coach, Colliton was a promising winger who was drafted 58th overall by the Islanders in 2003. His NHL career amounted to just 57 games, however, and he retired while playing in Sweden after suffering two concussions in less than a year.

So, while this campaign promises to prove difficult at times as the Hawks officially begin a rebuild, watch for Colliton to remain as even-keeled as ever.

"Just like anyone else, I've faced adversity in my career," Colliton said. "(I) got cut from teams. (Had) big disappointments and injuries. Didn't have the career I hoped to have based on the type of player I was when I was younger.

"Certainly the support of my wife and family (helped). ... In the short term, you often can't control the results. But over the long term, if you do the right thing and you make the best of every day, things will work out in the end."

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