CHICAGO -- Perhaps the last thing the Chicago Blackhawks expected was to return home to the United Center for the first time in November riding a five-game losing streak.
But even more likely was the fact that the Blackhawks would returning from a winless three-game road trip without coach Joel Quenneville behind the bench. But after the winningest coach in franchise history was fired on Tuesday after leading Chicago to three Stanley Cup championships since 2010, the Blackhawks will attempt to right the ship with new coach Jeremy Colliton as the man tasked with getting the Blackhawks back on track.
Colliton, who was promoted from Chicago's American Hockey League franchise in suburban Rockford, will make his debut on Thursday when the Blackhawks host the Carolina Hurricanes. After the Blackhawks front office decided Quenneville was no longer the right choice to put the franchise back on a path for playoff success, the message to Colliton become one of urgency. The Blackhawks will carry a 6-6-3 record into Thursday's game and although Chicago's recent skid wasn't the sole reason for Quenneville's ouster, it played a part.
"A decision like this isn't made on one game, one play, or one specific thing," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told reporters during Tuesday's press conference. "It's sort of a collection of things. Certainly, the road trip was concerning. But I think even heading into that there were some elements to our game where they weren't where they needed to be. It's not just based off the record of the team, so it's more a totality of circumstances than it is just based on one specific game."
Now, with Colliton in place, the Blackhawks must quickly turn the page from its recent struggles but must do so under a coach they are just getting to know. For Colliton, that won't make his debut any easier, but he knows he doesn't have much of a choice. At 33, Colliton is the youngest coach in the NHL.
"Ultimately, it's about winning," Colliton told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I have to earn their trust by them believing that I can help them win, that I can help them be better individually, that we as a staff can put together a plan so they can have success. So if I can do that, there's no problem. It doesn't matter how old I am."
The Hurricanes have lost five straight games heading into Thursday's date with the Blackhawks and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Carolina dropped a 4-1 decision to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday and have managed just four goals in their past three games. This all comes after Carolina started the season 4-0-1.
While Carolina won't have to worry about the kind of transition the Blackhawks face, the Hurricanes have a similar mission to get back to finding a way to play winning hockey. The Hurricanes have struggled of late despite leading the league in shots per game (41.8) and shots allowed per game (24.8).
"We should be frustrated," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said after Tuesday's loss, according to NHL.com. "I would hope so, but we've got to park it and come back and show all the stuff we've done well. Do the stuff that we need to clean up. We can't keep giving up goals early, but at some point, these chances are going to go in for us and as long as our game is solid, then we're going to get straight."