The Chicago Sun-Times Mark Lazerus sits down to talk with Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who has seen his team follow a roller coaster-like track this season. In what Lazerus warns as a season where the Hawks could miss the playoffs, he asks the coach if his job status is in question due to what has been a disappointing three-year stretch for Chicago. Quenneville responded with a short, yet blunt response:
“We’re in a short-term business as coaches. We’re in the winning business.”
Two first round exits (St. Louis in 2016, Nashville in 2017) and a bumpy season haven’t done much to ease an anxious fan base. It’s one that has become accustomed to winning–and winning often–after the city rediscovered hockey following a conference championship run during the 2008-09 season. From there, the results were dizzying. A Stanley Cup in 2010, another in 2013, missing another Final appearance in 2014 by a game seven overtime goal, and then another Cup in 2015. In what is a league built on discouraging dynasties, Chicago has made a strong argument for being one. It makes for a series of difficult questions: Could the window be closing and could Quenneville, a fixture in the Windy City for a decade, be a casualty?
Lazerus writes that Quenneville knows the lifespan of a coach in the NHL–21 of the 31 coaches have been hired in the past three years while Tampa’s Jon Cooper has the second longest tenure in the NHL with five seasons. Quenneville called the season a “challenge” and insists that his relationship with general manager Stan Bowman is “solid.” Regardless of that, Lazerus points out that both could be on the hot seat should the Blackhawks not find that success of the past. But Quenneville insists he’s concerned about the next game–and not anything else.
- Many have pointed to the goal-scoring struggles of captain Jonathan Toews as a source for the team’s struggles. Though his numbers have dipped, there was little concern, especially after long playoff stretches where Toews played a full 200-foot game. After trading for Brandon Saad, conventional thought was that another strong two-way forward would aid Toews and take some of the pressure off of him. Instead, the struggles have remained. Lazerus writes that Toews is having the worst statistical season of his career, despite fixing some offseason workout habits that were focused on him not feeling “so heavy” during the dog days of the season. Advanced stats reveal that Toews is still playing at his highest levels, but it’s not transferring over to the scoresheet. Lazerus chalks this up to Richard Panik’s struggles and a lack of puck luck.