The Chicago Blackhawks made a stunning move Tuesday morning firing head coach Joel Quenneville. The team replaced the franchise’s winningest coach with former NHL center and current Rockford IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton.
Rumblings about Quenneville’s job security started last season, and a rough start this year (15 points, 6-6-3 record) certainly didn’t help his case. However, the decision to fire Quenneville just 15 games into the season seems classless given his track record.
Sports are a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” business. That’s why you can’t always get wrapped up in nostalgia when trying making crucial decisions. When formerly successful players, coaches and executives hit a skid, their jobs should be in jeopardy.
But the Blackhawks are in a rut they likely won’t be able to get out in the immediate future. So what does firing a legendary head coach now really accomplish?
Is there REALLY a reason why they couldn’t wait until the end of the season? Unless Colliton is the NHL’s version of Sean McVay, there is no need to get him bumped up to the Blackhawks’ bench right now.
Quenneville had the best tenure of any coach in Blackhawks’ history and is bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 797 games in Chicago, he was 452-249-96 with three Stanley Cup championships. His 890 career wins are the second most in NHL history behind Scotty Bowman (General Manager Stan Bowman’s dad).
The move wasn’t as much about wins and losses as it was about a power struggle. That’s usually how highly decorated coaches are relieved of their duties in pro sports. It’s no secret that Quenneville and Stan Bowman haven’t seen eye to eye recently.
From the firing of former assistant coach Mike Kitchen in 2017 to the apparent disputes over younger players’ ice time, the discord between the two was evident. Quenneville certainly deserves some blame for the struggles over the last year or so. But was he responsible for extending Brent Seabrook and Artem Anisimov to ludicrous contracts or trading Artemi Panarin after two consecutive 30-goal seasons?
Puzzling moves like those fall at the feet of Bowman. Despite making solid draft choices in June, his free-agent moves this offseason felt flat. Bowman’s response to missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 was signing goalie Cam Ward, forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Brandon Manning. Seems like the textbook definition for “meh.”
With Quenneville out of the picture, the spotlight will shine even brighter on Bowman. Sure, Colliton might be able to ramp up the tempo and get things moving in the right direction at some point.
But if the arrow isn’t pointing up by the end of the season, Bowman should be out the door next.