Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman announced Monday that the organization has fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen.
The news comes two days after Bowman told media that an offseason shakeup was likely in the works in light of the Blackhawks’ sweep by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kitchen was hired during the 2010 offseason and helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. He oversaw the team’s defensemen and penalty kill unit, which finished 24th in the NHL this season
“We believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward,” Bowman said via the Blackhawks’ Twitter account. “Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”
Assistant coach Mike Kitchen is the first of the Blackhawks' promised changes https://t.co/TkKS2R3uaS— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) April 24, 2017
Kitchen, 61, spent eight seasons as an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining St. Louis Blues, where he was promoted to head coach midway through the 2003-04 campaign when the club fired Joel Quenneville. Kitchen was fired as coach of the Blues in 2006.
As a player, Kitchen was drafted in 1976 by the Kansas City Scout, which became the Colorado Rockies and later the New Jersey Devils. The defenseman logged 12 goals and 62 assists in 412 NHL contests.
Bowman said Saturday that offseason changes were coming but declined to elaborate. Quenneville and Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent are not expected to be involved in offseason moves. Quenneville will be back for a 10th campaign; Dent signed a three-year contract extension this past season.
Top assistant Kevin Dineen is expected to be on the bench for his fifth season with the organization. The former Florida Panthers head coach was a candidate for the Colorado Avalanche coaching job in 2016 before the job went to Jared Bednar.
With the top coaching positions secure, roster moves might be on the horizon. Backup goaltender Scott Darling will be a free agent this offseason and is expected to land a deal as a starter with another club. Johnny Oduya, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Brian Campbell will likely move on from Chicago.
Oduya made a return as a late-season rental to aid in a Stanley Cup run. He could retire instead of penning another deal. Campbell might also call it a career.
Marcus Kruger, along with van Riemsdyk, might end up with the Las Vegas Golden Knights as part of the NHL Expansion Draft.
Other players on the bubble include forward Vinne Hinostroza, who struggled down the stretch to find a regular spot in the lineup and was all but a footnote with the arrival of rookie John Hayden from Yale.
Hinostroza spent about half the season in Rockford and was recalled just ahead of the NHL playoffs. The former Notre Dame speedster finished the season with six goals in 49 games with Chicago and only saw action in one game against Nashville.
If Chicago does move Hinostroza, he would be the second top prospect traded away early. The Blackhawks traded Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 offseason, largely to move veteran Bryan Bickell’s hefty contract. The Canes are reportedly shopping the 22-year-old Teravainen, which could raise some eyebrows in Chicago.
The Erie Otters’ all-time leading scorer Alexander DeBrincat will also pen a Blackhawks entry-level deal ahead of training camp, which could entangle someone in a trade. Those who could be affected by the arrival of DeBrincat are Dennis Rasmussen and Marcus Kruger, as well as Tomas Jurco, Richard Panik, and Michal Kempny.
The Blackhawks were a Stanley Cup favorite this season, finishing with a 50-23-9 record and the most points in the Western Conference. Instead, they became the first No. 1 seed to be swept in the first round since 1994.
The Predators face St. Louis in the second round. The Blues are coming off their first-round series win over the Minnesota Wild.
The Blues knocked Chicago out of the 2015-16 playoffs, skating past the Blackhawks in seven games.
[Featured Image by Mark Buckner/Getty Images]