For better or for worse


Someday, Joel Quenneville, (AKA Q) is going to be fired from coaching the Hawks. Yesterday, however, was not that day and instead he was extended for three more years. By default, I've frequently wound up being a supporter/defender of Q by trying to suggest some perspective when he ignores the wisdom of thousands of coaches who interject from a position of front of a computer screen at home. Without a doubt, Q has the ability to pull the most baffling shit out of thin air and when it doesn't work, you feel like a horrified Less Nessman watching live turkey's plummet from a helicopter. When he does find the right line combos, he's typically given the old, "Meh, he got lucky". I would say he can't win, but with two cups to his name, I can't really say that either. So, on to the fluff.

I took a look at Hawks coaches on wiki here and Q is in some pretty lonely company. With a regular season record of 222-106-44, he is the only Hawks coach to have a >.600 record. He is also the only coach to have two cups to his name. Lifetime, Q's stats suggest he has been a very good coach in the regular season and by most accounts I have read of players who have played for him, he is well respected. Since coming to the Hawks, he has had the benefit of having a good roster in the years they went to the WCF and the two years they won the cup. In the other two seasons, not so much. Regardless, not every talent stacked team wins, see this year's Penguins for just one example. Arguably, some Q's best work this year came from not doing much work and in that I see an evolution. He still got outcoached on occasion, but in the end, it was his team hoisting.

As for the knocks on Q, well there's quite a few that on the surface, seem fair. What we never see of course is what goes on behind closed doors and what goes on at practice. Compared to other coaches like Babcock or Trotz, there is little in the Hawks game that could be called a system save for the one definable aspect of their game which is a quick transition. The power play continues to suck very badly and at some point, even I agree that it's time to stop throwing all of your best players on the ice and expecting something different to happen. When it comes to the dog house, Q has made some curious choices, Stalberg being the most recent, Brouwer being another name in the past. Likewise, Q will predictably always go short bench with veterans he trusts when the chips are down. I don't think the lack of playing time in the finals is going to mess with Leddy's head long term and again, it's hard to argue with how things turned out. Still, when it's on the line, you know what Q is going to do and if the other team can neutralize that, you don't know if Q will reach for younger players let alone his dog house players.

Regardless of whatever real or imagined faults Q may have, it would be absurd to fire a coach who has done what Q has done in four years time, unless you had a chance to hire a once in a generation coach. Stacked team or not, you hire a coach to win and Q has done that. Maddening and baffling as he can be, by the time he is done here in Chicago, he will possibly become the all time most successful coach this team will ever have.

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  • I'm glad you wrote this and not me. You have a little more open minded view on this one.

    I have to admit, the stache has found success here, although I like to joke that Savard would have had 4 cups by now.

    Q earned his paycheck I guess, and for all of the faults I see publicly, he did some things quite well this year, such as how he handled the team during the streak, and how he kept his composure when they were down 3-1 to the Wings. Although, this also provides reason for pause, given that Q was severely out-coached in that series, and if he had lost, it probably meant his job too.

    So, let us be fair, while recognizing that he came very close to losing his job as well.

    There are a bunch of issues I have had throughout his tenure here, and most of it boils down to his apparent lack of knowledge for the offensive flow of the game, and his contradictions as a coach. Such as trying to play Mr niceguy, and Mr doghouse at the same time (which doesn't apply to all the players across the board). He seems to be of the mold that thinks fear is a way to motivate, but likes to give his guys days off so that they like him. Being a teacher, I cringe at both of these methods.

    I also find his judge of skill to be suspect. Let us not forget that Saad would never had played if not for Carcillo's injury. I'm not so sure he sees what player's roles should be and how they can fit in the roster. He does like balls to wall players who give 120% every shift, but who doesn't? Except for Kane and Seabrook of course.

    And that's just it, Q seems to tinker with things so much until the choices get made for him. Since his is roster is full of talent, he has more options to tinker, and eventually the right fit happens somewhere. Somehow, this doesn't stop him from throwing things in the blender again.

    Good choices have been made, like sticking with Crow in the playoffs. That was a good one, but other times he just seems to hold out on making the move everyone else knows will work.

    I don't fear Q as much as a used to. I am still of the mind that his roster has covered up his shortcomings. What I do fear about this situation is that the last time the Hawks came off of a Cup, and he got a contract, he seemed to piss on everything handed down to him from SB. My hope, is that appearances are in fact true, and Q has learned from his mistakes, and trusts SB more now. We have a good amount of young players coming up, and they will need confidence from their coach to see them through the jump.

    Thankfully, the team's overall roster hasn't changed as much as last time. And, I can't help myself from throwing it out there again that Hossa needs to be thought of as a shutdown 3rd line player now. Either that, or they want him to get injured so that they can dump him on the IR. His contract will start killing the Hawks next year.

    Now for that power-play situation.......

  • I will be very curious to see how the team performs this year. You raise the principled points of critique of the Q. I don't fully agree on the Detroit series as the games were very close and the only real stroke of genius Babcock put out there in that series was to turn up the douche factor to full throttle. Toews whined, and then he dealt with it and then the Hawks took three straight. To blow a 3-1 to lead is not much of an endorsement for Babcock who pretty much ran out of tricks.

    You have a point on Saad, but after what they did to Leddy the year before, I didn't really have a problem with moving him a little slower. Once he got the chance though, Saad delivered and like Shaw, he made the most of his chance. Maybe Beach will get the message there.

    I'm kind of ready myself to see Hossa become the shutdown guy and play fewer minutes and maybe that will finally happen. What the kids show in camp and early season is likely going to dictate much of what happens. With Carcillo gone, Q is running out of options to add "grit". I think Bollig has done much better then he is given credit before, but unlike Carcillo, I don't think he can play serviceable minutes here in there on upper lines. Q doesn't need to reinvent the wheel this year, but that might not stop him from trying LOL

  • "..and now to the fluff", so true. Babcock got a lot of praise and a bus ticket home, just like the hand wringing about how would the Hawks ever score on Howard, Quick and Rask. Media noise in a 24hr news cycle world.

    Q is a winner and got what he deserved. Mixmaster lines and unbalanced minute drive me crazy. Last year he did address the latter.

  • Well, it took him about 10 minutes after getting his contract to start talking craziness again. This whole Saad as the #2 center talk from Q is exactly the kind of concerns I have always had with this coach. What the heck is he trying to do? Saad has never played center in high level hockey, and Pirri has done just about everything a player can do to be given an honest shot at the position. Now we have more controversy because Q has absolutely no offensive sense. Let's ask too much of Saad in his 2nd year and make Pirri sit it out again. What's next, forcing the Starship Enterprise into an impromptu meeting with the Borg years before they were ready?

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    Resistance is futile HH. LOL

  • Quite possibly. Q could be called perverse. That said, he wins.

    Pirri will get his shot, guaranteed, with Mixmaster Joel , in control.
    The fact that Sharp, Shaw, Kane and now Saad have spent time taking draws is good given the linesmans' penchant for pitching people out of the face-off circle.

    Q does keep things interesting.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    Well, on the other side of it, never having set lines leaves opposing teams in a state of never being able to know when they have the Hawks figured out. Babs and most of his players likely figured they had once again squeezed the life out of the Hawks. The Bruins probably felt the same way.

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