Let's At Least Talk About the IDEA of Derek King MAYBE Shedding the Interim Tag EVENTUALLY

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Let’s At Least Talk About the IDEA of Derek King MAYBE Shedding the Interim Tag EVENTUALLY

Chicago Blackhawks

Maybe it’s the suit. Perhaps it’s the new identity of playing more free and relaxed hockey. Or, perhaps it’s just a team with new faces finally getting their legs under them. Whatever it is, the Chicago Blackhawks have won eight of their last 12 games since Derek King replaced Jeremy Colliton behind the bench. And while they still might not be destined for a playoff berth, the Blackhawks are certainly much more entertaining to watch here lately. 

With that said, the recent rash of head coach firings across the NHL has me thinking about the long-term picture for the Blackhawks behind the bench. While it’s going to take more than a 12-game stretch for me even to begin to believe that Derek King might be the fix for the Blackhawks, the almost 180-degree turnaround *with the same talent* at least warrants a conversation about the possibility, right?

The Blackhawks look drastically different in the standings under King. He has been behind the bench for the exact amount of games that Jeremy Colliton was before interim GM Kyle Davidson dismissed him in early November. Let’s look at how the two head coaches fared in their respective 12-game stretches.

Derek King vs. Jeremy Colliton Head-to-Head

Jeremy Colliton

W-L-T1-9-2SOG345oZS%52.7
PTS4CF%45.9PP%40.5
GF26FF%44.7PK%87.5
GA47FO%47.6PDO92.5

Derek King

W-L-T8-4-0SOG325oZS%50.6
PTS16CF%47.5PP%9.3
GF28FF%46.3PK%78.5
GA28FO%48.6PDO101.8

The Blackhawks are better more almost every category under King, except for the special teams’ department. It’s no secret that the Blackhawks have struggled on the power play under King. Their 9.3 percent PP% is downright awful, and their PK% (78.5) is a step down from the 87.5 percent penalty kill that they were sporting when Colliton was canned. 

Still, King has shown the ability to embrace change when something isn’t working, which Colliton didn’t seem capable of doing. The power play wasn’t working, so King shuffled the deck, and now the Blackhawks have scored on the man-advantage twice in their last three games. Problem solved? Not necessarily, but it’s a step in the right direction. 

When King was brought to Chicago from Rockford last month, Kyle Davidson made it seem like he was here for just a cup of coffee while the Blackhawks sought out their long-term fix

But, as we know, things change. Davidson has the interim tag attached to him as well, but I have a feeling that he ends up staying in that role even when the Blackhawks form their new hockey operations department before the start of next season. So, despite Davidson’s initial statement, things can change. 

To credit the Blackhawks turnaround wholly to King taking over behind the bench would be niave. Marc-André Fleury has been the most significant factor on the ice for the Blackhawks’ turning of the tides. The future Hall of Fame goaltender has been superb lately, posting a 6-2-0 record with a .944 save percentage, the third-best mark in the NHL among goaltenders who have started six or more games since November 9. 

While Fleury has seen his numbers return to form over the last month, the defense, which was a massive embarrassment under Jeremy Colliton to open the season, has been better. Under Colliton, the Blackhawks allowed 47 goals (3.91 GAA) and were 19th in the NHL in shots on goal against per game (32.4). Under King, the Blackhawks have allowed 28 goals (2.33 GAA) and are 11th in the NHL in shots on goal against per game (30.3).

As Mario pointed out in Monday’s morning bullets, the Blackhawks defense has allowed just 28.2 shots on goal against per game, which is the second-fewest allowed by any team since November 23. 

During the first 12 games of the season under Colliton, the Blackhawks scored just 16 even-strength goals, and under King since then, the Blackhawks have scored 25 even-strength goals. So, the even-strength offense has been better, the defense has been better, and the goaltending has been markedly better since King took over. 

Again, this could point to multiple things. It could be King’s coaching; it could be a group of new faces finally beginning to mesh, or it could be a combination of both. Either way, the Blackhawks have been better since Derek King arrived from Rockford, so he gets credit where credit is due. 

After the season, the Blackhawks will be among at least three teams searching for a new head coach. Both Philadelphia and Florida will operate with an interim head coach behind the bench after dismissing the head coaches they began the season with. Surely these three teams won’t be the only teams to make a change behind the bench after this season when all is said and done, so the market for available and established NHL head coaching candidates will be a hot one after this season, making the idea of Derek King shedding his interim tag a palpable one, if, and this is a keyword here, if, the Blackhawks continue to head in the right direction under King for the remainder of the season.

Once again, I’m not saying that today; I believe that Derek King is the right guy for the job in the long term. Still, I think that it’s at least worth monitoring and discussing as the season progresses, rather than just viewing King as a placeholder and nothing more, as Kyle Davidson’s initial statement led us to believe. 


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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.