How About Marco Sturm as a Blackhawks Head Coach Candidate?

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How About Marco Sturm as a Blackhawks Head Coach Candidate?

Chicago Blackhawks

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been identifying potential candidates to be the next head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. General manager Kyle Davidson was clear that the new front office group of Davidson, Norm Maciver, Jeff Greenberg and Brian Campbell will spend time developing a profile of the individual they want as the next head coach in Chicago before they start putting names on a list.

But we’re making our list, anyway. Thus far, we have profiled four potential names that could be a fit for the Blackhawks:

•   Tampa assistant Derek Lalonde
•   Toronto assistant Spencer Carbery
•   former Rangers head coach David Quinn
•   Pittsburgh assistant Mike Velluci

We’re going to stay in the NHL assistant ranks for this installment, but we’re going to head west. How about Kings assistant Marco Sturm as a candidate?

Player pedigree

If you’re over the age of 30, you probably hear the name Marco Sturm and think about the center who appeared in 938 games in the NHL between 1997 and 2012. He was a first-round pick by San Jose in 1996 and played for the Sharks, Bruins, Kings, Capitals, Canucks and Panthers during a career that saw him produce 242 goals.

In 15 seasons as a player, Sturm also saw the postseason nine times; he was on good teams. And he played an important role on many of them.

His time on the ice has made the transition to being behind the bench a solid one, even if he didn’t jump into coaching at the highest level in Europe. Sturm did, however, go home to Germany and help develop a program that is now growing at a terrific pace, producing NHL players like Leon Draisaitl and future NHL players like the Blackhawks’ Lukas Reichel. Sturm worked with the German national program and helped its development from 2015 to 2019, and was impressive in helping guide those teams to increasingly regular appearances at the World Championships. He also coached Germany at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In 2018, Sturm came back to North America and joined the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Over those four years, for those who haven’t paid attention to the Kings, LA has started integrating younger players into their lineup and were able to put it together to the point that they returned to the postseason this past year.

Making it work

Sturm’s success with Germany was highlighted by an upset of Canada at the 2018 Olympics; that team included future Blackhawks forward Dominik Kahun. His comments after that game show a disposition that would work well with a young team that’s building a culture to win in the NHL. When he was hired by the Kings in 2018, Sturm spoke about those Olympics with

“We were not the best team, but as a team we found ways to win games against the big guys and that just shows that if you stick together, if you have good chemistry and a good locker room and you have fun and a lot of discipline, you can make good things happen.”

That mindset is what an organization should want as it works to instill the right work ethic for the future. In an article at The Athletic after joining the Kings’ coaching staff in 2018, Sturm spoke about how veteran players and coaches helped him grow as a player. He specifically spoke about Darryl Sutter — this year’s coach of the year in Calgary — as someone who helped his development.

“[Sutter] taught me how to survive in the NHL, how to work on a daily basis, how to be disciplined. With all of that, I learned so much from him. He was always honest to me, and that’s something I want to be with my players, to be honest, so they always know where I’m at… Maybe it wasn’t always good, but at least I knew where I stood. I think it made me a better player and a better person.” 

Honesty from a coach and helping guide young men into becoming professional athletes is an important factor that is too often taken for granted. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have maintained relationships with Denis Savard years after he was replaced as the head coach of the Blackhawks because he was the right guy at the right time: a former high draft pick who was the focal point of an offense in a big, hockey crazy city. What does it take to be a star hockey player in a big market? Savard knew Chicago, and imparted that knowledge on 19 and 88.

Ready to be ‘the guy’

Earlier this week, my guy John Hoven (aka The Mayor – an exceptional LA Kings writer/podcast) wrote about how Sturm might factor into coaching changes with the Kings organization.

“From what we’ve been hearing over the past few weeks, there could be a shuffling of the deck soon, with Sturm possibly ending up as the head coach in Ontario [LA’s AHL affiliate]. Essentially, it would be an opportunity for him to earn head coach credentials, with a potential eye on future opportunities. Prior to joining the Kings organization, Sturm – a veteran of nearly 1,000 NHL games as a player — had transitioned into being a buzzworthy coaching candidate while serving as bench boss for his native Germany.”

My takeaway from this is that Sturm does have interest in becoming a head coach in the NHL at some point. he is under contract with the Kings for next season, but that can obviously change if the Hawks wanted to interview him for their opening.

Sturm’s international background will benefit him in a global league like the NHL. His work with Germany will help him understand the work that is necessary in building a program from the ground-up, which is how the new Blackhawks’ front office has described the task ahead in Chicago. And he’s worked with a relatively quick rebuild program in Los Angeles to make the Kings a relevant team in their division quicker than some anticipated.

Those are all traits that could/should be in the profile the Blackhawks are building for their next head coach. So Sturm’s resume would seem to be one that would make him an attractive candidate.

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Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab