Derek King: Endearing, but the future?



With a new head coach, will the Blackhawks finish the season on a high note?

The new coach for the Blackhawks is hoping to right the ship during the rebuild, but is he the right man for the coming seasons?

After winning only one of their first 12 games, and an eight-game losing streak, the Blackhawks fired fourth-year head coach Jeremy Colliton. With new management after the firing of many executives in connection with the Kyle Beach cover up, new general manager Kyle Davidson made the call: on November 6, 2021 Derek King became the 39th head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Since his hiring, the Blackhawks have shown responsiveness to the change. After starting with one win, nine losses, and two overtime losses (1-9-2) under Colliton, the Blackhawks have earned nine wins in their first 14 games with King. What changed?
Some fans say the team began to develop an identity. Others say that the change lit a fire under them. But the results show.
Against the St. Louis Blues, the Hawks went down 2-0 after the first period. Earlier in the season, games similar to this one had gotten away quickly from the team. The team went down two goals to the Carolina Hurricanes after the first period on Oct. 29, and the team had no response. In the next two periods, the Blackhawks scored three consecutive goals, including the game winner in overtime.
Fans noted this as evidence of change in identity. Broadcasters have noticed the shift after King’s promotion as well. An announcer for the team since 1981, Pat Foley noted that no team in his time has been as physical as this year. It’s showing in the stats; the team is tied for the lead in hits as of Dec. 10. Most Blackhawks teams have been near the bottom of this list.
For Blackhawks fans, it might be heartening to see the team developing a sense of identity. However, the question that has been on the lips of many a Blackhawks fan has been “Is Derek King the long term solution?” Fans have seen this movie before. After Joel Quenneville was fired on November 3, 2018, it was Colliton that took over the role of head coach. Similar to King, he was the coach of the Rockford Icehogs, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, before his promotion.

Many have been quick to note the differences, however. Whereas Colliton spent 57 games in the NHL, King played 830 games in 14 seasons. Opposed to Colliton’s one year of North American coaching experience, King had been working in the continent since 2009. Many blamed the Hawks struggles under Colliton on lack of coaching experience.

“Right now, I think the Hawks just need to fix a few kinks and they’ll be there,” said Payton Nofitz. A sophomore from Bourbonnais, Nofitz has been a dedicated Blackhawks fan since 2006.

She said she believes that the change to King brought more experience behind the bench.

“I think that they’ll keep him to the end of the season, but definitely start looking for a new coach no matter the result of the Blackhawks season,” Nofitz said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with King, but I feel like the Hawks are going to look for someone long term, and I don’t think King is the person they’re looking for.”

Optimism for the future is uncertain, but fans of the team are happy to see stability and identity come back to the Madhouse on Madison.