"Behind the Bench," an evaluation of Joel Quenneville

"Behind the Bench," an evaluation of Joel Quenneville

My rants throughout his tenure with the Hawks have left little to the imagination on my feelings surrounding Joel Quenneville as the head coach. I realize that there may be some instances where I assumed too much, or was maybe biased to the situation at hand. Lets face it, there is a lot we just do not know about: what really goes on in the locker room, and how practices are really handled; essentially, what goes on behind closed doors.

Back in 2008 when Savard was let go in order to be replaced by coach Q, I was most certainly one of those in the "WHAT THE HELL?" camp. Then, the whole Stanley Cup thing happened and my views towards Q were quieted by a giddy, schoolgirl happiness. I began to believe that the great mustache might have some magic hiding somewhere in there.

What have been my gripes you ask? Well, for starters I don't think that the consistently inconsistent line combos have done anyone any good. I feel that it shows a lack in understanding of player strengths, potentials, and chemistry. It can lead to more chaos in an already chaotic situation. the 2010-11 season is a great case and point. Players were unable to get comfortable or sustain a desired system of play.

I have also seen a tendency to over use, or over rely on specific players too much, even when it was obvious that accumulating high minutes on the ice were stunting their performance. Then there was the little question of goaltending back in the glory year when it took far too long for the right goalie to stand between the pipes. However, I will state this choice might have been pressured by other suits in the organization.

Believing in small name guys seems hard for Q, It was Niemi in 2009-10, and then Hendry the following year, who was so obviously better suited for the ice than Boynton. There was a lack of trust in the Skille/Stalberg skills that just couldn't live up to their potentials, something I believe to have been exacerbated by coaching choices. For some reason though, believing in a giant named Scott was worth a few too many punches to the face.

I could go on, but my memory is nothing to applaud at. So, I should digress even though there are faded thoughts of mis-oppurtune line changes and seemingly unjust benchings in the daily hustle and bustle of the NHL year. What does stand out to me a great deal is the lack of control this past season's team showed.

Everything is fun and games when the talent is oozing out of every nook and cranny. Hard not to win with a roster as bloated as the 2009-10 season was. Was the following year a snap shot of what happens when the going gets tough? Many have pointed to Toews for not serving as the leader who could whip his team into shape when it was hurting so badly, but should we not then point a giant foam finger at Q? Was it a coincidence that the Hawks seemed to respond when Haviland took the reigns?

And yet, Q still has a Cup to his name and a fairly strong winning record as a Hawk. Am I being to hard? Probably, though I still see a logic to my negative reasoning.

Time for some positives to the Q-stache. He is a great symbol to stand behind. He always comes off extremely professional and surprisingly positive even when his team is playing bad enough to warrant a replacement. I also believe that his team does look up to him in many ways, even if they were honest at times on their feelings towards the line shuffling.

At the core I find Q to be a smart and confident individual who has good thoughts on the game of hockey, how it should be played and building a system which supports it. I think those strengths are lost in the heat of the moment and the game-time decisions. My final grade for last year is a C-, a 70%, just 1 percent above a D+. He passes, but just barely. Let us see how things go with a far better, although untested roster this coming fall.



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  • LOL...savard over Q? Stop it right there. Savard has no business behind an NHL bench unless it is taping sticks. Skille and Stalberg suck...period...end sentence. Now it is Q's fault they didn't reach some magical potential they never had?

    You are a fool.

  • Jordan Hendry??


  • Good opinion piece. Anyone that watches games with a knowledge of how the players interact would agree with you, in varying degrees of course.

    HH: You may earn some trolls on this column. This article was picked up by "Bleacher Report."

  • This article is proof that those who can't, write! Two minutes of my life I will never get back...

  • Evidence for strong coaching can be found in situations like that of Pittsburgh's last year. With the 2 top players on the team out for the season, arguably 2 of the best in the league, the team continued to find success behind a strong coaching foundation and winning support.
    Now I ask you, how well do the Hawks perform without Toews in the line-up? I will tell you. So badly that he is pushed back on the ice before an injury has had the proper time to heal.

    I truly understand the backlash to the statements I made above. Believe me, I wanted to say nice things, but every time I tried to think of something to put in the positive column, I just remembered more reasons to support the opposite. If you have evidence of why Quenneville deserved better than what I delivered in the above post, offer your support (as in proof) for that conclusion.

    Here is another example: Q has had the luck of coaching 3 talent filled teams in the past, but has only found playoff success most recently with the Hawks. He was sporting a losing playoff record until the Hawks triumphant year of 09.

  • Last year the Q had a "get out of jail" card called a Stanley Cup ring. But not this upcoming year. If the Scotty doesn't like the direction the team is going, he will get the hook.


  • In reply to beaverwarrior:


  • Looking over at the voting in regards to Q, I have to say I am shocked. I could see a C, but an A?

    I would really love to hear (no sarcasm intended) some of the support for those reactions. Remember last season.

    To Jimmycvhap, Jordan Hendry is a great skater who has been said to be the most physically fit player in the roster by other players. Not recognizing his skill and contribution to the game means that you are not really watching. Skille and Stalberg are the perfect examples of unrealized potential.

  • How do you determine how important a coach is? I look at a guy like Trotz and the level of commitment his players show every night and I think it has an enormous amount to do with the coach. But then I look at the quit factor displayed by the Canucks several times during the playoffs this year when they fell behind by 2 goals or more and I feel like that was a lot more about the players then the coach. I've come to accept that the role of coach can be oversold but I still believe that it can be drastically undersold.

    I think Q is a good coach. Talent deep or not, he took the team to the WCF in his first year and won the cup the next. He deserves his share of credit. Still, I frequently felt like you never knew what you are going to get when the Hawks took that ice last year. I can't put that all on Q as I felt like many players simply refused to give up what wasn't working. Still, on quite a few nights, the Hawks were systematically taken apart with a very simple game plan, especially from teams where you knew well in advance the exact type of game those teams would be bringing. Cup or not, it seems like the Hawks STILL have not learned to deal with a trap, or find consistency on special teams.

    What I disliked about Q this season is pretty much the same stuff I disliked prior. He no longer seems willing to bench "the stars", the schizo lines did not seem to help anything and his team seemed to continue struggling most against the teams they should be beating. At the end of the day, the players have to show up and give 100% no matter where they play and that didn't happen last year. That said, I think Q needs to put players in a position to succeed and I think he needs to give the team a gameplan to work with. System? We'll see this year.

    Does the coach make the organization, or is it the other way around? I honestly don't know. Teams like the Wings, the Preds, the Yotes and now TB seem to have an organizational identity, an identity that I don't think is there for the Hawks. Fairly or not, I think the cup team was Tallon's team and by default was something that simply wasn't going to last; it's now Bowman's, Q's and Toews team. As the past season fades more and more and I start thinking about this year, it's hard for me to think as critically now of Q as I did in the season. For now, I'm actually glad he's sticking around.

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    This year will be Q's acid test. Winning the Cup with a loaded roster is a challenge but not difficult. Last year his Cup hangover was probably the worst on the team. Roulette line changes are for the birds.

    This year he has a team that can win it all. He needs to be patient and willing to let the team build chemistry. Anything less than 4 in the division will be considered a failure with this roster. He has a team that knows how to play the game if he doesn't get in the way.

    I still think Savard was not the answer for the Hawks and hiring Q was a good thing. Unfortunately the Hawks will be a a permanent roulette wheel when it comes to their roster. They have too many one year contracts so that means every year we will see four or more new faces. I am not sure Q is the right guy for that type of team.

  • Thanks Frank, and I couldn't agree with you more. However, I would say that anything bellow 4th in the conference will be considered a failure with this roster. It truly has the potential to be at the top.

    My comment about Savard comes from an appreciation position more than a diagnosis of what the team needed at that point. I felt good about him in the position and had a biased view against Q following the switch (the whole thing smelled fishy). It would seem that based on coaching elements (rather than winning points) Q has yet to win me over. The performance of the team last year as a whole is what brought me to my final grade.

    Which, by the way, I am still shocked so many of you would give him an A, or even B. I truly want to hear those opinions in written form.

  • I think some of those A's and B's were influenced by the power of Q's stash.

  • I agree with the powers in the stache hypothisis. It has brought many championships to the great city of Chicago.

    But, as the author of this post and many of you have pointed out here Q hasn't really given us much to run with. A championship is one thing, barley making the playoffs by the skin of your teeth the following year with still half of the roster being champions is another.

    I would feel good about giving Q a C. Im not convinced about his abilities as a coach, but I still like the guy for some reason. An A or B seems a bit of a reach for what he has shown.

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