The Blackhawks might have one more contract to attend to before the upcoming hockey season gets busy. Don’t worry, this one won’t count against the salary cap.
Joel Quenneville is about to enter the final season of his contract, which he signed four games into the 2008-2009 campaign. While it’s been a long time since a Hawks coach has had a second contract with the team, this seems like a no-brainer.
Quenneville is 97-44-19 in the regular season and 25-14 in the postseason with the Hawks, and the next time he sees the Stanley Cup he should be able to see his name etched on it as a head coach. His .666 winning percentage in the regular season is tops among all 37 coaches the Hawks have employed in their existence. Not bad. Those facts make a contract extension a fait-accompli.
Quenneville recently said he would “love it” if he could stay in Chicago as long as possible. To give some perspective, the last coach to last more than three seasons was Mike Keenan, who was there from 1988-1992. Since then, nine have filled the job, seven were fired or not renewed after their initial deals. Only Daryl Sutter, following Keenan, left on his own accord. Bob Pulford took over in the 1999-2000 season but moved back upstairs after the year was over. Basically, Quenneville doesn’t have a lot of competition if he wants to become the longest tenured Hawk coach since Billy Reay, who manned the bench from 1963-1976.
The timing of this kind of an extension could easily coincide with the beginning of training camp, or the Hawks might wait until the season starts and pick a good moment for it. Like the deals for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith last season, there really is no rush, but why add another thing to the to-do list for next offseason? And unlike those three players, there is no restricted free agency when it comes to coaches. It would be a surprise if this didn’t get done sooner rather than later.
Arguably, Quenneville’s greatest strength is his ability to get the most out of his defensemen. A former blue-liner himself, Quenneville asks a lot of his D-men and usually gets it. Coincidentally or not, the Hawks have had little turnover in that department since Quenneville took over. Even with all the changes this offseason, only one regular defenseman was moved, and only one new one was brought in.
Brian Campbell had some well documented stressful moments with Quenneville in their first seasons with the Hawks, but he admittedly has come out the other side better for it and had a stellar second season with the Hawks. Under Quenneville, Keith blossomed into a Norris Trophy winner, and Niklas Hjalmarsson has advanced so well, he received the only restricted free-agent offer in the NHL this summer and cashed in big time for it. And don’t forget Brent Seabrook made the Olympic team against stiff competition this past year. It would be foolish to think Quenneville didn’t have a hand in all those positive things happening for his players.
In-game, many who have coached with and against him say he doesn’t miss a beat. And his adjustments in the postseason were spot on, starting with moving Patrick Sharp back to center and giving Dave Bolland a pure defensive role, a job he dominated in.
Turning 52 just days (September 15) before camp opens, Quenneville has set himself up to be the head coach of the Blackhawks for many years. And if he has more seasons like the one he just had, this extension might not be his last.