By Chris Block
There’s been plenty of change on and off the ice this off season in Chicago.
The Blackhawks have added several new professional and amateur scouts to the Hockey Operations department. There are also some changes in the developmental staff and a few departures of note.
New Goaltending Developmental Coach
When Andrew Allen joined the Buffalo Sabres as their new NHL goaltending coach this summer, it created a coaching vacancy on the Rockford IceHogs’ staff and in the Blackhawks developmental realm.
That hole was filled this week when the organization hired Peter Aubry away from the Lake Superior State Lakers (WCHA) where he coached the Lakers’ defense and helped out with the goaltenders.
Aubry, 38, is a former goaltender who was an assistant on the Lake Superior staff for one season. Prior to that, he was an assistant for Mercyhurst College, his alma mater (1998-02), for three years. Mercyhurst is located in Erie, Pennsylvania.
He spent nine years playing professionally as a goaltender, mostly in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Aubry also spent once season each in the former United Hockey League (2003-04), ECHL (2004-05) and split his rookie pro year between the Johnstown Chiefs (ECHL) and Saint John Flames (AHL) during the 2002-03 season. He retired from pro hockey in 2011 after two years in France at the age of 34 to forge a career in coaching. Aubry played against current Blackhawks’ assistant/IceHogs general manager Mark Bernard during the 2005-06 in the U.K. Bernard was the GM and coach of the Basingstoke Bison. He had to come out of retirement shortly into the season to occupy the Bison goaltending position as well after their goalie left to team to go home to the States. Bernard was 36 at the time and had been retired from playing the previous four seasons. After that season Bernard left the U.K. to become an assistant GM for the Blackhawks at the minor league level (Norfolk at the time) under Al MacIsaac. In 2008, Bernard became the minor league GM when the Blackhawks had relocated to Rockford and MacIsaac was promoted to a newly created position as John McDonough’s right-hand man and liaison to the hockey operations side when Dale Tallon was still GM.
Aubry’s resume also includes time as a goaltending coach in Europe and a talent evaluator for the USHL. He’s also served as head instructor at the Shane Clifford Goalie School in Pittsburgh since 2003.
Former Blackhawk joins Development Staff
Derek Plante, a Blackhawk for a brief period late in the 1999-00 season, has joined the Blackhawks player development staff. Plante will work under Barry Smith, the organization’s Director of Player Development.
Plante, 44, left his position as assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC) in mid-June, citing personal reasons. Plante had stated in his June 23rd resignation statement that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. Apparently his new position with the Hawks will allow him to do so. This month, Plante served as head coach for USA Hockey at the Ivan Hlinka Under 18 tournament, held in Slovakia.
Plante played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth for 4 seasons (1989-93) and spent eight seasons in the NHL, mostly with the Buffalo Sabres. He came to the Blackhawks in February of 2000 in a trade that sent defensemen Dave Manson and Sylvain Cote to the Stars. The Hawks also got Kevin Dean (D) and a 2001-2nd round pick that became Matt Keith. Keith’s career largely went nowhere in North America and was eventually apart of a trade that brought P-A Parenteau to the Hawks in 2006. Parenteau made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks that season but it would be another four years before he would become a regular NHL player at the age of 27.
Plante essentially replaces Mike Sullivan, who left the organization to become the new head coach of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Brett Larson will take over Plante’s position at Duluth. There’s a weird connection now between that position and Ohio State and the Blackhawks. Plante got that assistant’s position in Duluth in 2010 when Steve Rohlik left Duluth for the same position as associate coach to Mark Osiecki at Ohio State. Osiecki was fired suddenly after three years on the job in April of 2013. Rohlik eventually wound up taking over Osiecki’s position as head coach at OSU after speculation of a bigger outside hire. Two months later, Osiecki was hired by the Blackhawks to be an associate coach to Ted Dent in Rockford. In becoming head coach, Rohlik brought Brett Larson, at the time an assistant for Minn-Duluth alongside Plante, on staff at Ohio State. After two years with the Buckeyes, Larson resigned and returned to Duluth last week to take the spot vacated by Plante, who will now work with Osiecki in Rockford developing players for the Blackhawks.
Increased Scouting Staff
Following last summer, when the Blackhawks expanded its scouting staff to concentrate more on tracking other organization’s drafted prospects, Stan Bowman and company have increased their scouting staff again this off season.
By count, as of today, the Hawks have added three positions. A scout has moved on as well.
The Hawks have added 5 new scouts to the staff including Matt Bardsley, Richard Kromm, Allan Power, Eduard Zankovets and Michael MacPherson.
–Most notable, perhaps, is Matt Bardsley, who comes well-regarded from the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) organization.
Bardsley, 43, is a Portland native who started as an area and advanced scout for the Winterhawks. He was eventually promoted Director of Player Personnel, then Director of Hockey Operations in 2010 and Assistant GM in 2013. The latter two positions he served under Mike Johnston, now the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bardsley’s ascension up the ranks in Portland has stalled with Jamie Kompon, former assistant to Joel Quenneville, now in charge of the Winterhawks. During his time in Portland, Bardsley has been credited with the scouting and recruitment of Brandon Dubinsky, Paul Gaustad, Bradley Ross and Ty Rattie.
–Blackhawks have also hired Richard Kromm, 51.
Coincidentally, Kromm and Bardsley worked together in Portland for a little over a season in 2007-08 when Kromm was head coach there before Mike Johnston was hired. Kromm played his junior hockey with the Winterhawks.
Kromm most recently was head coach of the Stockton Thunder for the past two seasons. Stockton joins the American Hockey League this season, becoming the Stockton Heat. The Calgary Flames purchased the franchise and relocated its coaching staff from its prior AHL affiliate in Glens Falls, New York.
Keith Seabrook played for Kromm last season before the early March trade was worked out to send Seabrook to the Rockford IceHogs via a trade with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who owned his contract.
Richard Kromm’s father Bobby won the Jack Adams Award in 1977-78 in Bobby’s first season as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Bobby was fired in 1980. He passed away in 2010 from colon cancer a day after his 82nd birthday.
Richard Kromm and Steve Konroyd were teammates for six seasons in the 80’s (1983-89) with Calgary and the New York Islanders. The two were traded by the Flames to New York for John Tonelli in 1986.
Kromm has been a head coach at the minor league level for 17 seasons. He was also an assistant under John Anderson on the 1998 Chicago Wolves team that beat Steve Ludzik’s Detroit Vipers for the IHL Turner Cup. The next season Kromm won his only championship as a head coach, leading the Muskegon Fury to a 50-18-6 season and the UHL Championship. He would go on to become the bench boss for the Calgary Hitmen where he’d coach Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd, Johnny Boychuk and future Rockford IceHogs captain Brandon Segal among others.
—Allan Power joins the Hawks after being let go this off season from the Toronto Maple Leafs. He covered the Maritimes region for the Leafs.
He spent the past ten years with Toronto as an amateur scout. Power is also the founder and president of Power Play Sports & Hockey Clinics in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Power was the GM of the Moncton Wildcats while Corey Crawford played his junior hockey there. Power joined the organization after Crawford’s first season in Moncton.
—Eduard Zankovets, a Minsk, Belarus native who turns 46 next month, joins the Blackhawks as a pro scout. Zankovets is a coach of the Belarus National team alongside Glen Hanlon.
Last year, Zankovets was an assistant coach in the KHL in Omsk. The entire Avangard Omsk coaching staff was let go following a disappointing 2014-15 season. Zankovets skated for Omsk as well during his playing career, which spanned 14 seasons.
In a bit of irony, Zankovets spent only part of one season playing professionally in North America.
That was in 2000-01, and it was as a Rockford IceHog. Zankovets scored 7 goals and 5 assists in 27 games with the IceHogs in the UHL that season. He returned to Russia the following year, which would be his last before retiring. He participated in Olympic tournaments for Belarus in 1998 and 2002.
—Mike MacPherson actually re-joins the Blackhawks organization as he’s done some ECHL scouting for the Hawks in the past. He actually got his start in scouting with the Blackhawks in 1999 working the ECHL circuit. MacPherson was also worked for the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes in similar capacities.
MacPherson leaves International Scouting Services (ISS), a division of Hockey Tech, an independent amateur scouting service, to join the Blackhawks. He’s a graduate of St. Francis Xavier University as well as the University of New Brunswick. MacPherson is a Nova Scotia native who settled in Guelph, Ontario.
With ISS, MacPherson served as an Ontario region scout.
On the Outs
Dennis Bonvie appears to be out as a pro scout.
The long-time minor league tough guy was briefly a Blackhawks enforcer in 1998-99 season when he skated 11 games as a Hawks, compiling 44 penalty minutes.
Bonvie, 42, joined the Blackhawks as a pro scout in 2009. He’s not been shy, making sure his interest in getting into coaching is known.
It’s been widely speculated that Bonvie would be headed to join Mike Sullivan, who took a job this summer as head coach of Pittsburgh’s minor league affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Sullivan spent just this past season working for the Blackhawks in a player development and scouting role. Sullivan currently has one assistant on his staff, Jay Leach, the former Bruins and Devils depth defenseman. Leach, 35, was also married Kathryn Tappen of NHL Network back in 2009. The two met while Leach was playing for the Bruins in Providence and Tappen was a sports anchor there.
Bonvie is a Nova Scotia native, but he made his home in Kingston, PA – just across the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre after his playing career ended in that city in 2008. Bonvie has invested and lent his name to several businesses in that area over the years as well.
The Antigonish, Nova Scotia native skated a total of 871 regular season games in the American Hockey League, amassing 4,493 penalty minutes during that time – which comes out to a five minute major per game, something that is virtually unheard of these days. Bonvie’s professional playing career spanned 15 years, especially incredible considering the role he played and being undersized for a protypical enforcer. He was listed at 5’11” and around 205 pounds during his playing days.
Andrew Contis, who we told you about here last year, has had his title officially elevated from an intern in Hockey Operations to Hockey Analytics/Video Analyst. This would be the first time the Blackhawks have officially acknowledged their analytics person on its web site front office directory.
It’s essentially the exact same job Contis has been doing, he just now has an official position with the team. Adam Gill, who filled that position previously before become the Rockford IceHogs’ video coach prior to this past season, went through the same process of serving under intern status before getting somewhat of a title internally.
Contis is a Culver Military Academy and Michigan State graduate who joined the Blackhawks in August of 2014. Prior to that he worked for the O2K Management Group out of Los Angeles. That group reps several NHLers, including Brandon Bollig, Ryan Hartman, Derek Stepan, T.J. Oshie, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, Jason Garrison amongst others.
While a few other organizations, most notable Toronto, have hired multiple high profile hockey analytics people in the past couple off seasons, the Blackhawks seem to acknowledge the limited value of most analytics at the current time and are quite comfortable remaining status quo with their operation in that department.
Andrew Joy is out as Mental Skills coach. Joy spent one season with the Hawks. He relocated to Chicago for the job from the Boston area, where, among other things, he aided individuals with substance abuse issues. James Gary is the Hawks other “Mental Skills” coach and he remains on staff as the team’s Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (L.C.P.C.).
William “Will” Harper, M.D. has parted ways with the Hawks. Harper served as the team’s Lead Internal Medicine Physician for ten years. Ari Levy, who co-founded Engaged Health Solutions in Chicago with Harper in 2009 when both were also employed by the Blackhawks, will stay on the Blackhawks medical staff in a similar role to the one Harper has left behind. Levy will be entering his 8th season of affiliation with the Blackhawks. Levy and Harper, as well, are both practicing physicians at the University of Chicago Medicine.