On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Joel Quenneville after just over 10 seasons at the helm. Quenneville took over as the boss behind Chicago’s bench for the 2008-09 season and subsequently led the franchise to championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Quenneville has the second most wins as a coach in Blackhawks history. Billy Reay, who coached the team from 1964 to 1977, has 64 more.
The Blackhawks certainly are not the best team — currently sitting at 6-6-3, the team has had its fair share of defensive woes after a hot start. But, in fairness to Quenneville, he has not been given much to work with following the dynasty years.
The Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews dual $10.5 million per year contracts are killer. It leaves the franchise with barely any mobility on the free agent front, hence the departures of the likes of Nick Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin, among others, in recent years. Players such as Brandon Saad ($6 million), Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million) and Cam Ward ($3 million) do not help the cause.
Quenneville was forced to deal with a hand that involves playing the likes of Alexandre Fortin, Dominik Kahun and Tanner Kero in extended roles.
Having Erik Gustafsson, Brandon Manning and Jan Rutta comprise 50 percent of your team’s defense is not a recipe for success either.
The final blow, Corey Crawford’s health issues, essentially sunk Quenneville and Chicago into missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade in 2018. Even then, the Blackhawks were in contention for a wild card spot for a while.
Quenneville’s departure is ultimately concerning for a number of reasons. Firstly, it instills a culture that general manager Stan Bowman is content, at least to a certain extent, with his roster and would rather bring in a rookie manager, 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton, to right the ship.
Bowman and the ownership group elected to make Quenneville a scapegoat for bigger, underlying issues. The roster is simply not set up to succeed with or without Quenneville.
Colliton has had success in Rockford as the head coach and will look to push an up-tempo pace for the rest of the season. It remains to be seen if the older Blackhawks will be able to keep up with that pace.
Lost in all the Quenneville news, too, was Chicago letting go of its two assistant coaches Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson.
Dineen coached the Panthers for two-and-a-half years before becoming an assistant under Quenneville in 2014. Samuelsson has been with Chicago for the last two seasons after serving as an associate coach in Arizona and an assistant coach in New York.
Both Dineen and Samuelsson have long been rumored to be in the mix for any head coaching job that pops up. The two have been around the league long enough to be considered, and perhaps this opportunity could provide finally for the chance to make the jump.
It remains to be seen if either of the two will land a job elsewhere, but it is still curious that the Blackhawks elected to go with the inexperienced Colliton over one of those two. Even if Dineen or Samuelsson had taken over for the rest of the season, the team could have easily switched over to Colliton for next.
All in all, the firing of Quenneville and his staff is highly problematic for Chicago. The team has failed to identify its true problem and are electing to try and make something out of nothing.
One thing is for certain in this situation, though: whichever franchise lands Quenneville as its next head coach will be a winner.