Why Blackhawks prospects are already buying what Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton is selling

Why Blackhawks prospects are already buying what Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton is selling

Luke Johnson has gotten a few chances to talk to Rockford head coach Jeremy Colliton, and he likes what the new coach is selling.

“He seems like a knowledgeable guy about the game,” said Johnson, who played 73 games with the IceHogs last season. “He’s a younger guy and his career wasn’t too long ago. That’s always nice having a younger coach that can kind of relate to us a little bit more. I’m looking forward to getting going with him and working with him.”

They’ve gotten to work together some already at the Blackhawks’ development camp this week, where Colliton has started to see who may be making up the IceHogs’ roster in a few months. The 32-year-old Colliton was a player himself not too long ago, and that connection has meant a smaller gap between he and his future players.

“I guess it’s another way to relate to them, another way to try and get the message across that they need to hear to get better,” Colliton said. “I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve been in their position and so hopefully that allows me to get that message across… whether it’s part of their game or what they’re doing off ice or how they approach things. There are so many things that can help them become Blackhawks. Getting that message across in different ways is a benefit.”

Colliton was among the coaches working with a group of prospects on Wednesday afternoon. Several of the players in that group either played some in Rockford last season (including Johnson and Matheson Iacopelli) or are headed there for the first time this fall. At the same time Colliton is learning himself, getting integrated in the Blackhawks’ way of doing things.

“Right from the first interview there’s been a discussion on how the Blackhawks want to play, and it fits well with how I see the game and how we played in Mora,” said Colliton of the team he coached in Sweden prior to returning to the states. “Whether it’s new guys as first-year pros or guys who have been there before, we have to continue to play at a high pace, have the puck as much as possible and play that up-tempo style that’s given the organization so much success.”

The fact that Colliton isn’t far removed from the game himself has already helped him connect with his soon-to-be IceHogs players. The other connection is the desire to win, which is there regardless of age gap.

“I’ve always paid attention to what I thought was important to win. As a competitor, nothing better than winning. As a player it was a big priority for me and when you become a coach it’s the same thing. You do whatever you can to help the team win and help the players learn what it takes to be successful individually,” Colliton said. “If you start there, they’re receptive to your message.”

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Has the championship window closed?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Jonathan Toews sits down with Pat Boyle for a 1-on-1 interview. Toews weighs in on his season with Brandon Saad, whether he expects major changes this offseason and has the championship window closed?

Also, Adam Burish joins the podcast and plays the game: “Building block, not sure, or no thanks.” Burish runs down the Blackhawks forwards and predicts whether or not they have a future with the team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: