By Chris Block
In addition to the breaking news today that goaltending coach Stephane Waite is leaving the Chicago Blackhawks for the same position with the Montreal Canadiens, (this after last week when Stan Bowman said he expected Waite to stay with the Hawks) we can also confirm further coaching changes going on within the organization.
There has been a shuffling of the deck on the Rockford IceHogs coaching staff after the team failed to qualify for the AHL postseason for the third consecutive season.
Following up on some speculation we heard back in early May regarding the Rockford IceHogs coaching staff, the Chicago Blackhawks official site has removed the listing and profiles of Ben Simon and Steve Poapst, both assistant coaches for the IceHogs this past season.
We can confirm independently both Simon and Poapst have been released by the Blackhawks and are seeking new employment.
Ted Dent’s profile, as well that of goaltending coach Andrew Allen, are still listed on the Blackhawks web site. Dent’s two-year contract expired with the conclusion of this season but it would appear he’s staying. Dent was present in Boston at the Cup deciding Game 6 and for the parade and championship rally in Chicago on June 28th.
At this point, there has been no official word from the Blackhawks on these releases or who will be replacing the coaching roles vacated by Steve Poapst and Ben Simon.
Ben Simon, who turned 35 on June 14th, joined the IceHogs coaching staff for the 2011-12 season. Simon filled Ted Dent’s assistant’s position after Dent was promoted to head coach for that same season. Goaltending coach Andrew Allen was also hired to replace Wade Flaherty (who left for a position with the Winnipeg Jets) at the same time.
Simon had served as player/head coach of the Sheffield Steelers of the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League during the previous season, leading that club to its league championship while posting 27 goals and 39 assists in 62 games himself as a player.
Upon joining Rockford, Simon primary responsibility was the IceHogs forwards. He would often watch the first period of games from the stands or press box to take notes and provide a different perspective to Ted Dent and the players before joining the team on the bench for the remainder of the game.
Simon was originally a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 5th round of the 1997 NHL Draft, in the final days of that particular Bob Pulford tenure as general manager, though assistant GM Bob Murray was doing a lot of the heavy lifting by that time and was officially named the sixth general manager in Chicago Blackhawks history twelve days following that ’97 draft.
Simon was drafted following his freshman season at Notre Dame. The Shaker Heights, Ohio native never suited up for the Blackhawks in his career, having been traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for a 9th round pick (turned into Peter Flache, a 6-5 center out of Toronto who never scored more than 10 goals in a season or made it past the ECHL level in North America) at the 2000 Entry Draft. As a member of the Thrashers’ organization, Simon helped the Chicago Wolves win their second AHL crown in 2002. In 196 career regular season contests as a member of the Wolves, Simon notched 37 goals and 87 points. Simon skated in 81 total NHL games over his career with the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Steve Poapst, 44, also had a prior history with the Chicago Blackhawks organization. The 1991 Colgate University graduate skated in 307 regular season NHL games in all, 220 as a defenseman with the Blackhawks from 2000-04.
Poapst made his NHL debut as a member of the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on April 10, 1996, scoring his first career goal on New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter in that game.
After leaving Colgate University in 1991, Poapst played his first two seasons as a pro with the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League. There, he was teammates with Mark Bernard, the primary goaltender for the Admirals who Poapst would go on to work with in Rockford. During two seasons at Hampton Roads, Poapst also skated on defense with Al MacIsaac, who would go on to become a minor league general manager for the Blackhawks and is now a Vice President and chief assistant to John McDonough. Together, Poapst, MacIsaac and Bernard won the ECHL championship with the 1991-92 Hampton Roads team. Hampton Roads would go on to become the Norfolk Admirals in 2000, which is also the year MacIsaac joined the Blackhawks organization as a member of hockey operations.
A Cornwall, Ontario native, Poapst joined the IceHogs coaching staff after four seasons serving as the general manager and coach of the Chicago Steel. Poapst earned the 2008 USHL coach of the year honor while behind the bench for the Steel.
Ted Dent is entering his 8th season as a member of the Blackhawks organization. He started as an assistant to Mike Haviland in Norfolk for the 2006-07 season, the last of Chicago’s affiliation agreement with Norfolk. It was there Dent began working and developing a wave of Blackhawks prospects including Corey Crawford, Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Adam Burish, James Wisniewski, P.A. Parenteau, Jake Dowell, Colin Fraser and Dustin Byfuglien among many others and current day prospects.
As IceHogs head coach, Dent’s coaching record is 77-63-4-8 [W-L-OTL-SOL] for a .546 points earning percentage.
Since joining the AHL, the IceHogs have not suffered a losing regular season despite missing the postseason the past three years and going 7-13 in playoff action their initial three American Hockey League seasons.
Over six seasons, the IceHogs own an AHL record of 243-186-15-28 (.560) during the regular season.
The Blackhawks moved their AHL affiliate to Rockford beginning with the 2007-08 season, entering into a 10-year agreement with an IceHogs franchise that had just won a United Hockey League championship.
Dent served as the lone assistant to Haviland for one more season, and then for the next three under Bill Peters before gaining the promotion to head coach in the summer of 2011 after Peters accepted an assistant coach position under Peters’ former mentor Mike Babcock in Detroit.
–While also yet to be formerly announced, Stan Bowman recently hired former Blackhawks center Yanic Perreault, a face-off specialist in his time, to a player development position. Perreault’s contract is reportedly for two years.
It is believed Perreault will spend a good amount of time in Rockford, where face-offs have a significant problem over the years.
Perreault will not be an official member of the IceHogs coaching staff.
Now 42, Yanic Perreault finished his career as a member of the Blackhawks for one season. He posted 9 goals and 14 points over 53 games during the 2007-08 season, the first for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The emergence of a young Dave Bolland made Perreault expendable in the summer of 2008, but injuries had taken their toll on Perreault as well over his 17-year professional career and he subsequently retired. Perreault had some solid seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Phoenix Coyotes. In 859 regular season NHL contests, Perreault notched 247 goals and 269 assists for 516 points to go along with the distinction of being one of the better face off centers of his time.
–In addition to not having qualified for the postseason since 2010, the Rockford IceHogs have not won a playoff game since the 2007-08 season, the IceHogs’ first in the AHL, when Rockford lost a seven-game series to the eventual 2008 Calder Cup Champion, Chicago Wolves in the second round of the playoffs.
Since that 2008 series with the Chicago Wolves, the IceHogs are 0-8 in postseason contests, having been swept in both 2009 and 2010 by the Milwaukee Admirals and Texas Stars respectively.
Aside from the changes behind the IceHogs’ bench, there will be a lot of new faces on the ice when the team takes to the ice this fall at the soon to be renovated BMO Harris Bank Center.
With veteran NHLers Rostislav Olesz and Steve Montador exited the Hawks organization via compliance contract buyouts this week, the IceHogs lose the offense and veteran presence those two players helped provide during Rockford’s tremendous late season rally to within a win of grabbing a playoff berth.
Goaltender Henrik Karlsson and winger Kenndal McArdle are two other veterans moving on. Both have signed deals to play in Sweden next season, Karlsson for Skelleftea in the Swedish Hockey League and McArdle for Vasteras in the Tier II Swedish pro hockey league, Allsvenskan, which is the same team another former IceHogs forward, Matt Fornataro (late season acquisition in 2011-12), skated for this past season.
Chicago Blackhawks GM of minor league operations Mark Bernard re-signed forward Brad Mills to a one-year AHL contract for the 2013-14 campaign. Mills joined Rockford in January while serving a seven-game suspension for a referee-bumping incident while playing for the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL during the NHL lockout. In 33 games with the IceHogs, Mills posted 7 goals and 16 points. He skated the majority of his shifts as a right wing on Brandon Pirri’s line, though Mills is a natural center and faceoff specialist. Mills, 30, is a Yale University graduate who spent five full seasons in the New Jersey Devils organization prior to joining the IceHogs.
On May 1st, the IceHogs inked recent Boston College graduate Pat Mullane to a one-year AHL deal. Mullane helped B.C. to NCAA National Championships as a freshman in 2010 and in his 2012 junior season. Mullane was a teammate of both Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith (during Mullane’s 2009-10 rookie season only). In the past three seasons, Mullane has teamed with Jimmy Hayes’ younger brother and Blackhawks 2010 first round pick, Kevin Hayes. Over his four seasons at Boston College, Mullane posted 42 goals and 97 assists for 139 points in 163 games. Mullane also served as captain of the 2012-13 B.C. squad. He is a center who can play wing as well.
Rockford also added 22-year old Swedish defenseman Viktor Svedberg to a one-year AHL contract, announced on May 16th. Svedberg is huge, standing 6’8” and 235 pounds. He had spent the past two seasons playing for the Frolunda Indians in the Swedish Elite League (now known as the Swedish Hockey League). But when Svedberg’s two-year contract with Frolunda expired this spring, he decided to try his hand in North American. Svedberg hails from the same hometown (Gothenburg) in Sweden as Daniel Alfredsson and Viktor Stalberg. An undrafted prospect, Svedberg’s considered a project whose skating is still unrefined but his obvious size, reach and stick-work make him an attractive project to the Chicago Blackhawks. Svedberg has been on the Blackhawks’ scouts radar for awhile as the 6’8” blueliner participated in the 2012 summer prospect camp at Johnny’s Ice House-West in Chicago.