Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is the wild card in what could be a wild offseason
The Chicago Blackhawks are going to miss the playoffs for the first time under head coach Joel Quenneville in what could be his last season with the team. After coaching them to three Stanley Cups, a popular rumor throughout the league is Quenneville’s time in Chicago might have run its course.
Nobody believes he is no longer a good coach. It’s more a matter of it being best for both parties to go their separate ways. In the event Quenneville and Chicago split, the coach should have a sizeable selection of potential future destinations. Given his resume, teams will view Quenneville as a coach capable of getting their team over the hump.
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Young teams like the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers will be tempted by him. Quenneville would have the chance to grow with the franchise as the likes of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau or Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to evolve as players. It’d be a similar situation to when Quenneville first arrived in Chicago. He helped Johnathan Toews and Patrick Kane turn into franchise players.
Experienced teams like the Washington Capitals, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks could also chase Quenneville. With core players already in place capable of immediately contending, the trio of teams could be attractive given their ability to compete for a Stanley Cup.
Captains like Alex Ovechkin, Joe Pavelski, and Ryan Getzlaf would instantly respect the championship pedigree from Quenneville. A coach with lesser experience or even entering his first job in the NHL might not get that.
Perhaps the biggest factor involving a potential Quenneville departure is he doesn’t deserve to be removed from his job. It’s hard to fault a coach who lost two of his top five scorers from last season’s team in Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin. Quenneville also lost Corey Crawford, his starting goalie, for most of the season. He hasn’t played a single game since the calendar flipped to 2018. This turned the Blackhawks’ goaltender position into a revolving door of uncertainty.
Chicago has been used to losing players but this season the losses were too great to overcome. The roster was massively flawed. Key pieces of the team were lost and replaced with nothing close to filling the void. The Panarin trade has resulted in disaster. Both Kane and Artem Anisimov haven’t matched the production they had with him on their line.
Blackhawks management hoped the returns of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp would help. However, their play has been far from impressive for different reasons. Saad was expected to help Toews produce offensively on his line, but the center appears set to post his worst point total in six seasons. At 36-years old, Sharp is simply not the player he once was.
On defense, the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson in the offseason was grossly underestimated. Losing the reliable top-four defender left a massive void on the blueline. On top of Hjalmarsson’s loss, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook combined to have their worst seasons in six years.
With so many players having down years, Quenneville must take his fair share of the blame. However, the 2017-18 Blackhawks team is easily the weakest roster of his tenure in Chicago. With the weak roster, no starting goalie, and almost every core member underperforming, it’s not hard to understand why the Blackhawks missed the playoffs.
With some roster tinkering and a healthy Crawford, there is no reason to believe Quenneville couldn’t have the Blackhawks right back in the playoffs next season. Although recent history would point to the Los Angeles Kings missing the playoffs last season under head coach Daryl Sutter only to rebound this year with John Stevens leading the way behind the bench.
If the Blackhawks follow what the Kings did last season then Quenneville won’t be out of a job for long.