After their first-round exit, the Chicago Blackhawks fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen. The two areas of the team for which he was most responsible – the penalty kill and the defensemen – were two of the most problematic areas for the Blackhawks this season.
The firing reportedly upset coach Joel Quenneville, who was a former teammate of his with the New Jersey Devils back in 1983. Obviously, the Blackhawks only had one recourse here, which was to … hire another one of his former teammates.
According to Craig Morgan of FanRagSports.com, Ulf Samuelsson will join the Blackhawks staff as an assistant coach. Samuelsson played with both Quenneville and assistant coach Kevin Dineen with the Hartford Whalers.
(We move one step closer to having “Brass Bonanza” replace “Chelsea Dagger…”)
He was the head coach of the AHL Charlotte Checkers.
Samuelsson, whose candidacy was reported back in May by the Chicago Tribune, was one of the most feared defensemen of his day during his 1,080 games in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was previously an assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes and the New York Rangers, and was a respected defensive coach with the latter.
This is a great hire for the Blackhawks. He’s a known commodity for Quenneville, and has a track record of success for a team that needs to rethink a thing or two on the back end.
To that end, Pierre LeBrun reports the Blackhawks have signed “highly sought after” Czech free agent defenseman Jan Rutta.
“Jan has been on our radar for a number of years and he has shown great progress on the ice during that time,” said GM Stan Bowman.
The 6-3 defenseman, turning 27 next month, had 32 points in 46 games for Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga. The Blackhawks expect see changes on their back end for next season with Trevor van Riemsdyk likely headed to Vegas and Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell both expected not to return.
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