On Oct. 16, 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks made a coaching change. Gone was Hall of Famer Denis Savard. In his place came Joel Quenneville, best known to many Chicago fans for being on the wrong end of the rivalry with the Blues for years.
On Nov. 7, 2018, the Chicago Blackhawks made a coaching change. Gone is (future) Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville. In his place is Jeremy Colliton, best known to Chicago fans as… the guy asked to replace an icon.
In the ten years and almost one month between those two coaching decisions, the Chicago Blackhawks experienced the best stretch of hockey in the history of the franchise. The organization won three Stanley Cups in a six-season span and was considered a dynasty.
Under the leadership of Quenneville, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith established themselves as three of the elite players of their generation. All three will likely join Quenneville in the Hall of Fame down the road, due in large part to the systems and guidance of Quenneville.
The Hawks eclipsed 100 points in five of six seasons between the 2011-12 season and 2016-17, with only a lockout keeping them from hitting the mark in all six straight seasons. Overall the club reached 100 points in eight of his ten seasons as the head coach; the team had 97 points in 2010-11 after one of the most significant roster purges experienced by a defending championship team in NHL history.
History will remember the 2010 championship team as one of the best the club has ever had. Built by Dale Tallon, that team had future all-stars and captains all over the lineup. But the salary cap (and poorly executed faxes at a deadline) led to an exodus the likes of which has crushed other organizations. A decade of despair did not follow, however. Stan Bowman and Quenneville rebuilt the roster into a championship contender once again, and the 2012-13 edition of the Hawks was more dominant than the 2009-10 version.
With the Cup victory in 2015, the Blackhawks were the model franchise in the NHL. And Quenneville had established himself as arguably the best coach in the sport (with a nod to Mike Babcock).
However, increasing questions about the chemistry off the ice continued to percolate. The relationship between Quenneville and Bowman was a frequent lightning rod for fans and talk radio in Chicago, and roster moves made since the 2015 Cup victory haven’t all worked out.
Indeed, many of them haven’t worked at all.
When the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time under Quenneville’s watch last year, the questions of job security became louder than ever. Continued lack of success on special teams were highlighted as a central issue, and almost annual turnover to the coaching staff under Quenneville pointed to issues in the organization.
Would history be different if Corey Crawford hadn’t suffered a season-ending concussion last year? Or if Bowman hadn’t traded Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad? There are a million “what if” moments over the past three years, but the culmination of all of the decisions and circumstances have led to today’s decision.
And now here we are. Chicago is saying goodbye to one of the most loved coaches in the city’s history – in any sport. Quenneville finds himself on the Mount Rushmore of Chicago coaches with Phil Jackson, George Halas and (fill in the blank with Joe Maddon or Ozzie Guillen, depending on your baseball rooting interest).
Everyone will have a different memory of Quenneville’s tenure in Chicago. Everyone will have a different perspective on what went right, and how/where things went wrong at the end.
There were championships, and parades. There were cigars and beers. There were autographs and photos taken. There were the loudest cheers the United Center has heard since Michael Jordan retired. And there are three banners hanging from the rafters forever because of what Joel Quenneville meant to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Everyone who considers themselves a Chicago Blackhawks fan will have three images burned into their memories. A Stanley Cup being handed to the head coach of the Blackhawks after a victory. The third of which happened in Chicago.
Thank you, Coach Q. It was an amazing ride, and we’re all fortunate to have been able to be a part of the success.