NOTE: NBC Chicago will offer a live stream of the Blackhawks' press conference at 3 p.m. CT Tuesday right here.
Following in Quenneville’s footsteps was never going to be easy, as the coach is the second-winningest in NHL history and had won three Stanley Cups in Chicago, but Colliton will be tasked with getting the team back on the right track as they try to get back into the postseason.
"It's an honor to join the Blackhawks," Colliton said during an afternoon press conference. "Fantastic city, tradition of success."
Colliton said he addressed the team Tuesday morning. "I told them I'm very excited to be working with them. It's an impressive group," he said, adding, "I think it's going to be an excellent partnership."
Team President John McDonough said many traits led them to Colliton, but he especially praised his communication.
"He's measured, he's bright, he's got a very good hockey mind, and he's an excellent communicator," McDonough said. "That is the thing that really, really stood out."
Colliton, who appeared in 57 career NHL games with the New York Islanders, has been the coach of the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford since the beginning of last season. During that time, Colliton led the IceHogs to the Western Conference Final and has turned them from a down-trodden club into a contender loaded with young talent.
He was especially effective in turning the team’s offense around, as the IceHogs scored a whopping 64 more goals during the 2017-18 campaign than they had in the year prior. The IceHogs also managed to trim the number of goals they allowed by 12, and they romped through the first two rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs before falling to the Texas Stars in the conference final.
Colliton is a very young coach at the age of 33, and is now the youngest coach in the NHL. He is actually younger than four Blackhawks players, including defenseman Duncan Keith and goaltender Corey Crawford.
When asked Tuesday about his age, he said, "Ultimately it's about winning, and I have to earn their trust by them believing that I can help them win."
That youth could prove to be advantageous to Colliton, who will take over a team that has plenty of veterans, but is also peppered liberally with youth. Players like Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, and Henri Jokiharju could benefit from Colliton’s new approach to the game, while veterans like Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook will still be able to serve as locker room leaders for the club, bridging any potential divide with the veterans that are still with the team.
That, perhaps more than any other single factor, is what is most remarkable about Colliton, according to reports and scouts. He is a coach with a modern eye for the game, utilizing analytics and emphasizing a more speed-driven approach to the game, and he will undoubtedly bring some new ideas and tactics to the team from an offensive standpoint. He is still a bit of a traditionalist however, with a cool demeanor and a willingness to coach physically-imposing teams as well.
"Sounds like he's going to do some really good things," Seabrook, who played with and against Colliton when the two were young, said after the team's practice Tuesday.
That mix of styles could make for a smoother transition than what could be expected, as the Blackhawks move away from Quenneville’s defense-heavy strategy and move toward a more hybrid style under Colliton.
We'll get our first look at Colliton's coaching chops when the Blackhawks welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the United Center on Thursday night.