Chicago Blackhawks fire coach Joel Quen­neville

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - OPINION - JAY CO­HEN

CHICAGO — Joel Quen­neville knew the deal. Af­ter three Stan­ley Cup ti­tles and nine play­off ap­pear­anceswith the Chicago Black hawks, the long­time coach fig­ured this was a big sea­son for him.

“I only think we’re in the win­ning busi­ness and we bet­ter win,” Quen­neville said on the first day of train­ing camp.

Two months later, it was over. The Blackhawks fired Quen­neville on Tues­day, end­ing a wildly suc­cess­ful run that re­turned the fran­chise to the top of the NHL af­ter years of heartache.

“This is cer­tainly a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” gen­eral man­ager Stan Bow­man said in a state­ment. “But I be­lieve it is in the best in­ter­ests of the Blackhawks or­ga­ni­za­tion. We need to max­i­mize each and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity with our play­off goals in mind and cre­ate con­tin­ued growth and de­vel­op­ment through­out our ros­ter at the same time.

“Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion the last sev­eral days, with great re­spect to what Joel has meant to the Blackhawks, we knew we had to make a change.”

As­sis­tants Kevin Di­neen and Ulf Sa­muels­son also were let go. Jeremy Col­li­ton was hired as the 38th head coach in fran­chise his­tory, and Barry Smith, 66, moved from Chicago’s front of­fice to the bench as an as­sis­tant coach. Col­li­ton moves from Chicago’s Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate in Rock­ford, Ill., and is now the NHL’s youngest head coach at 33. Blackhawks for­ward Chris Ku­nitz, de­fence­man Dun­can Keith and goal­tenders Corey Craw­ford and Cam Ward are older than Col­li­ton, and de­fence­man Brent Seabrook also is 33.

The 60-year-old Quen­neville had an­other year left on a three­year con­tract ex­ten­sion he signed in 2016 that pays him US$6 mil­lion per year, sec­ond high­est in the NHL be­hind Maple Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock.

“He’s a good friend, good coach, three Cups. He’s go­ing to go in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Bab­cock said Tues­day in Toronto. “I don’t know what else you say about him. If he wants to work, he works.” Quen­neville was the long­est-tenured head coach in the NHL and the sec­ond coach fired in the past three days af­ter the Los An­ge­les Kings dis­missed John Stevens on Sun­day.

“It was pretty shock­ing this morn­ing, ac­tu­ally. That’s two (NHL coach fir­ings) in (three) days,” Ve­gas coach Ger­ard Gal­lant said be­fore the Golden Knights faced the Maple Leafs on Tues­day. “Joel Quen­neville’s at the top of the coach­ing pedi­gree. It’s too bad. It’s a part of our busi­ness and we all un­der­stand that, but it’s real tough.”

When­ever Quen­neville wants to get back to work, he likely will have plenty of suit­ors.

The for­mer NHL de­fence­man has 890 wins in 22 years as a head coach with St. Louis, Colorado and Chicago. Scotty Bow­man, Stan’s fa­ther and a se­nior ad­viser with the Blackhawks, is the only man with more reg­u­lar-sea­son vic­to­ries. Quen­neville took over Chicago four games into the 2008-09 sea­son, re­plac­ing De­nis Savard af­ter the Hall of Famer was let go by for­mer gen­eral man­ager Dale Tal­lon. What fol­lowed was an un­prece­dented run for one of the NHL’s Orig­i­nal Six fran­chises. Jonathan Toews, Pa­trick Kane and Keith blos­somed with Quen­neville be­hind the bench, and the Blackhawks won the Stan­ley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. They also made it to the con­fer­ence fi­nals in 2009 and 2014.

“His lead­er­ship dur­ing three Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­onships speaks for it­self and there is no way to ad­e­quately ex­press what he has meant to this or­ga­ni­za­tion,” team pres­i­dent John McDonough said in a state­ment. “He will al­ways be a sig­nif­i­cant mem­ber of the Blackhawks fam­ily.”

The trou­ble for Quen­neville be­gan when Chicago was swept by Nashville in the first round of the 2017 play­offs af­ter the Blackhawks fin­ished with the best record in the West­ern Con­fer­ence. Then they missed the play­offs en­tirely last sea­son for the first time in a decade.

Af­ter get­ting off to a 6-2-2 start this year, Chicago has dropped five in a row head­ing into Thurs­day’s home game against Carolina. The power play, a per­sis­tent prob­lem, ranked 27th in the NHL head­ing into Tues­day. The Blackhawks also are al­low­ing an un­seemly 3.73 goals per game.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Af­ter a slow start to the NHL sea­son, the Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Joel Quen­neville, pic­tured, on Tues­day morn­ing. Quen­neville had coached Chicago since 2008-00, lead­ing them to three Stan­ley Cups.

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