Blackhawks hire Jeremy Colliton as new Rockford IceHogs coach

Blackhawks hire Jeremy Colliton as new Rockford IceHogs coach

Jeremy Colliton would still love to be playing hockey. As he put it, “it’s the best game in the world to play.” But post-concussion symptoms cut his pro playing career short and led to a coaching opportunity in Sweden.

It was a successful transition. Now, Colliton will bring his coaching ability back to this side of the pond.

Colliton was hired as the Rockford IceHogs’ new head coach, the Blackhawks announced on Thursday morning. The 32-year-old Colliton has spent the past four seasons in Sweden, where he was head coach of the Mora IK. He played pro hockey for eight seasons; his final season came with Mora IK, with whom he retired in 2014 after dealing with post-concussion symptoms. This past season Colliton led Mora IK to a 35-4-13 record (105 points). But in April Colliton announced that he wouldn’t return with Mora IK, the Alberta native saying in a statement at the time that, “I feel it’s time to be closer to home.”

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement that, “Jeremy’s experience as a player and a coach will allow him to be a great leader and mentor for our young prospects in Rockford. He is coming off a great start to his coaching career with four successful seasons in Sweden and fits very well into our plan of continuing to develop our younger players.”

Colliton will inherit a Rockford team that finished eighth in the AHL Central with a 25-39-9-3 record. The IceHogs missed the playoffs for the first time in the past three seasons. Colliton said getting players ready for the NHL is the biggest task but finding team success also looms large.

“The first priority in Rockford is to help the young players develop so they can contribute and help the Blackhawks win on the NHL level. But that doesn’t prohibit you from having a winning team. That’s also important, teaching these guys how to win and what it takes to be a guy who’s trusted to be on the ice in important situations,” Colliton said. “That’s how they’ll become everyday NHLers and become players the Blackhawks can trust. The focus is on development. Winning is important but that’s the result if we’re doing the right things as far as getting better every day.”

Being in his early 30s, Colliton isn’t too much older than the players he’ll be coaching in Rockford. But he said it’s probably more about his experience in the minors more than the age gap.

“I think what is a positive for me is I’ve been in these guys’ shoes. I know what it’s like to play in the AHL and to try to break through and become an everyday NHLer. Hopefully I can use that experience as a way to help communicate the message for these guys to reach their dreams,” he said. “I’m sure there are some generational things that are easier. But as a coach, the way things are now, it’s important you can connect with these guys, build trust and it’s possible that helps because I’m closer in age.”

Colliton’s playing career was cut short due to concussions but he wanted to remain in hockey in some capacity. He found success as a coach overseas. He hopes to repeat it now in the Blackhawks’ organization.

“I’m a little bit surprised that I’ve been able to move along quickly and get into this opportunity,” Colliton said. “But I have confidence in myself and when I got [the coaching job] in Sweden, I felt like I had experience and knowledge to offer, similar to this, where I was trying to help young players become pros and pros become difference makers.”

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Blackhawks have two more regular-season games, with no significant attachment to either. So on Thursday, with the season nearly done, the Blackhawks will rest a few more veterans.

Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are expected to take the night off when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Niklas Hjalmarsson will also be out; he's still back in Chicago attending to family matters. The moves give veterans the chance to rest up for the postseason and younger players to show what they can do.

"I mean, if you can skip a game towards the playoffs it's a luxury," Hossa said. "Some guys can get the rest. We have a lot of extra guys, so coaches can make decisions in the first round. They can show the potential, too. So it's a luxury we have right now."

There could be more veterans back in the lineup on Saturday, when the Blackhawks finish the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings.

Gustav Forsling, who the Blackhawks recalled on Wednesday, will draw into the lineup. Forsling had a good start to this season but didn't progress as the Blackhawks hoped he would, prompting a trip to Rockford.

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"His best stretch was at camp. It looked like he was going to be one of those guys that could play in all situations, meaningful minutes. Down there, he's played more, and we're probably looking for progression when he does play tonight," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He has an upside to his game, just the way he moves and anticipates and offensively sees and makes plays is a great asset to have. We're looking for that progression. That's the area that, down there we probably didn't see it like we were hoping, but we still think he has all the intangibles to capture."

Meanwhile, Artem Anisimov continues to skate back in Chicago. Quenneville said Anisimov is progressing well but the second-line center will not join the Blackhawks on this final regular-season trip.

Broadcast information

Time: 9 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live Stream: CSNChicago.com
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Tomas Jurco-Nick Schmaltz-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Desjardins
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs 

Johnny Oduya-Gustav Forsling
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Rozsival-Michal Kempny

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Ducks forward lines

Nick Ritchie-Ryan Getzlaf-Patrick Eaves
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Rickard Rakell-Antoine Vermette-Corey Perry
Chris Wagner-Nate Thompson-Logan Shaw

Defensive pairs

Shea Theodore-Brandon Montour
Korbinian Holzer-Josh Manson
Jaycob Megna-Kevin Bieksa

Goaltender

John Gibson

Injuries

Cam Fowler (lower body)