On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, the Florida Panthers visit the Chicago Blackhawks.
This isn’t just the obligatory annual visit for an Eastern Conference foe.
It’s the return of a Blackhawks icon.
Blackhawks fans haven’t been able to properly express their gratitude to the greatest coach in the history of the franchise – yet. Joel Quenneville’s time in Chicago will be remembered forever by Blackhawks fans, and when he enters the Hockey Hall of Fame the Blackhawks will be the biggest part of his impressive resume.
His first head coaching job in the NHL was with the rival St. Louis Blues, where he was the man behind the bench from the 1996-97 season until he was fired during the 2003-04 season. St. Louis won 307 of the 593 games Quenneville was their coach; the Blues had a .598 point percentage with Q calling the shots. Quenneville is the all-time winningest coach in the history of the Blues.
He then moved to Denver and served as the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche from 2005-06 to 2007-08. The Avs won 131 of the 246 games Quenneville was their head coach, a .579 point percentage.
Quenneville was an intriguing hire for the Blackhawks when they brought him in as an advisor. On Oct. 16, 2008, the Blackhawks fired Denis Savard as head coach and replaced him with Quenneville.
The decade that followed was the greatest stretch of hockey in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise.
Quenneville led the Blackhawks into battle 797 times in the regular season. Chicago won 452 times. Both of those totals rank second in franchise history behind Billy Reay, who coached the team in 1,012 regular season games and won 516 times. Quenneville’s point percentage (.627) is the greatest in Blackhawks history.
During Quenneville’s tenure the Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs nine consecutive years. Twice the team advanced to the conference final, losing to Detroit in 2009 and Los Angeles in 2014.
Three times the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup with Quenneville as their coach.
The Blackhawks were 76-52 in the postseason under Quenneville, the most games and wins in the franchise’s playoff history.
With Quenneville on the bench the Blackhawks excelled individually. Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy twice. Jonathan Toews won the Selke Trophy. And Patrick Kane won the Hart Trophy. All three earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as well.
Beyond the box scores, Quenneville was a tremendous ambassador for the organization. He built a house in Hinsdale and took the Stanley Cup all over the Chicagoland area, from diners and bars in the Hinsdale area to various public appearances. He was a regular at cigar lounges in the suburbs and was always accessible to fans.
Fans and media joke about his postgame comments. He never showed his hand and spoke in vague “Q-isms” that became their own language. He didn’t frequently crack a smile under his legendary mustache, but when he did it lit up the room.
The Blackhawks fired Quenneville on Nov. 6, 2018. They haven’t replaced his experience and expertise (yet).
When the Panthers enter the building tonight, Quenneville will greet a lot of familiar faces and friends. The reception he gets from the United Center faithful will be loud – and earned. He is the best coach in the history of the franchise.
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— NHL (@NHL) January 16, 2020