The Chicago Blackhawks expanded their coaching staff by adding Marc Crawford as an assistant coach to Jeremy Colliton. Crawford joins the Blackhawks after serving as interim head coach for the Ottawa Senators for the last two months of the 2018-2019 season. On paper, he’s a heavily decorated coach who has earned a level of prestige.
Known for his accomplishments as the head coach of the Quebec Nordiques turned Colorado Avalanche, he received the Jack Adams Award in 1995. Crawford also led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in 1996. Throughout the rest of his career, he served as head coach for the Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, and the ZSC Lions of the Swiss League, better known as Auston Matthews’ pre-draft team.
He then had his stint with the Ottawa Senators, first as an associate coach to Guy Boucher. Then, Crawford became the interim coach following Boucher’s late season firing. His record in those eighteen games was 7-10-1.
This is where the doubts start.
It has been over twenty years since Crawford’s golden era with the Avalanche and thirteen since he began bouncing from team to team. Despite his accolades, I can’t help but question the Blackhawks’ choice in bringing him on to the coaching staff.
Meshing With Colliton
With Head Coach Colliton heading into his sophomore year, Crawford’s hiring is a little out of place. Following the firing of Joel Quenneville, Colliton had big shoes to fill and came under fire after the Blackhawks struggled to immediately get back into shape. However, it was obvious when the team got into the groove of Colliton’s style of coaching, as the second half of the season showed enough promise for a brief run at a playoff spot.
Although the Blackhawks ultimately didn’t make it to the postseason, the team’s new cohesiveness was an important indicator for next season. With a fresh start in the fall and everyone on the team now on the same page and adjusted, the Blackhawks were set to have a true run with Colliton and ride the momentum of last season.
But Crawford’s presence on the new coaching staff may not fit into this trajectory as well as it seems. At 34 years old, Colliton is the youngest NHL coach, backed by assistant coaches Sheldon Brookbank and Tomas Mitell. They’re both equally on the younger side. Both of them have worked closely with Colliton before and had come in after a full clear out of Quenneville’s coaching staff. Colliton, Brookbank, and Mitell came to the Blackhawks as a cohesive unit with similar styles and beliefs.
Adding in Crawford and his old school background doesn’t quite fit in an otherwise carefully handpicked coaching staff. The Blackhawks brought in Colliton to change things up and move out of Quenneville’s style. But bringing in Crawford brings something similar back into the staff.
While the claim is that Crawford brings in the experience that the current staff lacks, I have a hard time believing that it’s worth causing a rift in a freshly solidified staff that is just starting to gain traction. Colliton doesn’t need an old school guy like Crawford breathing down his neck. He also doesn’t need someone contradicting his coaching style at this crucial point in his coaching position with the Blackhawks.
Crawford’s Unsavory Record
Crawford has been the subject to much criticism by both media and players alike. Coached by Crawford while he was on the Kings, retired player Patrick O’Sullivan talked about the issues he had with him in a 2015 interview. He is quoted saying “I don’t know, clearly he didn’t know how to change his style to adjust to the new game. That’s why he’s no longer in the league.”
Brent Sopel also spoke up about his poor experiences under Crawford’s coaching. While on a hockey podcast, Sopel opened up about Crawford’s poor attitude. He also claimed that sometimes he would kick his players.
Crawford is also accredited for encouraging the hit on Steve Moore that inevitably ended his career. After Moore hit Vancouver’s Markus Naslund in a previous game against the Avalanche, the Canucks were told to seek revenge on Moore throughout the game. Under Crawford’s suggestions, Todd Bertuzzi ultimately delivered a hit that got out of hand. It resulted into a career-ending injury. Bertuzzi went as far as to pursue a third-party lawsuit against Crawford, but eventually dropped it in 2012.
While it was never meant to get that out of hand, the incident is a strike against Crawford. It’s also a further example on his emphasis of physical play. The Chicago Blackhawks, even under Joel Quenneville, have never emphasized physical play over skillful play. Aside from dedicated enforcers here and there, the modern Blackhawks have never been that kind of team. Thus, Crawford’s physical style sorely sticks out against one of the Blackhawks’ core philosophies.
Crawford does not fit into Colliton’s and the new coaching staff’s style. His opposing ideology could easily cause a rift behind the Blackhawks bench. Bringing in Crawford is a questionable choice by the Blackhawks front office. It will be interesting to see how Crawford fits in with the Blackhawks this upcoming season.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter at @jxcquelineoh