If Joel Quenneville had been fired over the weekend, he might be the coach of the Los Angeles Kings today.
Count on Quenneville rumors to ramp up related to the Florida Panthers or St. Louis Blues or any other team with a coach on the hot seat.
The best indication of whether Quenneville deserved to be fired by the Chicago Blackhawks today will be his popularity in the coaching market over the next couple of weeks.
It’s fair to say Quenneville, 60, is the leading candidate to be hired for the next coaching vacancy. He ranks second all-time in wins with 890.
General manager Stan Bowman’s decision to fire Quenneville and replace him with American Hockey League coach Jeremy Colliton, 33, had nothing to do with Quenneville’s ability to coach.
Quenneville is out of a job because this is the price to be paid for three Stanley Cup championships between 2010-15. When a team has that much success, top players receive lucrative contracts, depth erodes, players grow older, the process becomes stale and the coach gets fired. It's just what happens.
But the Blackhawks are 6-6-3 and coming off a 33-39-10 season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in Quenneville's 10-season tenure.
Bowman called it a “difficult” decision, but the truth is that it was the best option he had to give the team an illusion of freshness.
“It is in the best interests of the Blackhawks organization," Bowman said in a statement. "We need to maximize each and every opportunity with our playoff goals in mind and create continued growth and development throughout our roster. 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.”
The change behind the bench isn’t going to improve the Blackhawks’ depth or bring a fountain of youth to Duncan Keith (35) and Brent Seabrook (33), two important defensemen. It won't clean up the Blackhawks’ salary cap concerns.
The Blackhawks have six more seasons with Seabrook, and five with Keith and forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. That is more than $33 million in salary. The salary cap is $79.5 million this season. Those players aren’t going anywhere.
But it is a new beginning for an organization that knows a reboot is coming. Colliton will be a new voice, and he offers a clean slate for the younger players on the team.
The Blackhawks were probably weary of Quenneville's approach. Colliton may appreciate some players more than Quenneville did. He may give more ice time to younger players. The change could mean more players being promoted from the AHL.
Bowman’s job now will be to rebuild the team with those four players remaining on the roster. It won't be easy. The Blackhawks need a couple of young stars to jump-start the process, and that would require them to bottom out and earn an early draft pick.
This Chicago reboot could take a while. While that process is happening, Quenneville will be watching from behind another bench, probably with a more intriguing roster than he owned this season in Chicago.
It’s probable that Coach Q will be back on top before the Blackhawks.
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