Earlier this month, Chicago Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson said he’d like the team’s next permanent head coach to ideally be a long-term solution and not just a quick fix. With associate general managers Norm Maciver and Jeff Greenberg at his side, Davidson has said he hopes to have a permanent head coach in place by early July, highlighting accountability and superior communication as traits he wants from the ideal candidate. While there are many options available who would bring these assets, there is one name, in particular, Chicago should strongly consider hiring.
David Quinn, 55, would be a great solution for the Blackhawks as their next head coach. With experience coaching multiple levels of hockey, his background is diverse and unique. Despite lacking significant NHL experience compared to other potential candidates, he could be exactly what the Blackhawks need as they rebuild and ultimately begin contending, even if it may seem like a bold move now.
Quinn’s Experience & Background
After multiple stops at the collegiate level and serving as an assistant coach of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Lake Erie Monsters from 2009 to 2012, Quinn was introduced as head coach of Boston University (BU) in March 2013. During his Terrier tenure from 2013 to 2018, he compiled a 105-69-21 record and led the club to a Frozen Four appearance in 2015, eventually falling to Providence in the National Championship. While at BU, he developed the likes of Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake Oettinger, among others.
Quinn’s BU success led him to the NHL in May 2018, taking over as head coach of the New York Rangers. At the time, the Rangers were in a similar situation to the Blackhawks; they were in the early stages of a rebuild, albeit with a few more pieces in place. Quinn served as head coach of New York from 2018 to 2021, where he slowly helped develop players, including Adam Fox, Alexis Lafrenière, and K’Andre Miller.
Though his tenure with the Rangers wasn’t without its growing pains, New York saw an upward trajectory during his time at the helm. After a disappointing 2018-19 campaign, the Rangers made the expanded 2020 playoff field. Despite losing their qualifying round series to the Carolina Hurricanes, New York continued to see growth from both its young players and veterans in 2020-21.
Quinn finished with a 96-87-25 record in New York before he was fired in May 2021 in favor of Gerard Gallant. With an impressive 110-point season this year, you could argue that some of the Rangers’ success now is due to the foundation Quinn set for his players. Even though the Rangers missed out on the playoffs in the abbreviated 2020-21 season after making the qualifying round the year prior, which might seem like a disappointment, they also faced a tough East Division with perennial contenders such as the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
While Quinn hasn’t coached professionally for more than a year, he coached Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics and led the club to a quarterfinal finish. He is also coaching Team USA at the 2022 World Ice Hockey Championships right now, where he’s working with three current Blackhawks: Seth Jones, Caleb Jones, and Sam Lafferty. Overall, Quinn’s unique blend of collegiate, AHL, NHL, and international experience could prove beneficial for Chicago.
Why Quinn Would Be a Great Fit
The most obvious reason why Quinn would make a lot of sense for Chicago is that he’s worked with a rebuilding club before. Granted, the Rangers’ rebuild moved at a relatively quick pace, and it’s likely the Blackhawks will take a little longer to finish theirs. Many pieces, such as Fox and Igor Shesterkin, were already in place or being developed by the club when he came on board. It’s a little different for the Blackhawks, as they have a relatively thin prospect pipeline. Furthermore, beyond Alex DeBrincat, Seth Jones, as well as potentially Lukas Reichel and/or Kirby Dach, there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding who potential cornerstones could be moving forward.
However, that’s not to say Quinn couldn’t thrive in Chicago, even if the Blackhawks’ rebuild is a little slower. Knowing Davidson is looking for a candidate who could help the Blackhawks play more of an up-tempo style of hockey, Quinn’s experience developing young players could pay dividends in this area. In New York, he slowly forged an identity based on speed and skill, which Chicago could use moving forward.
Quinn and the Rangers were largely criticized for lacking toughness, but this fell more on the team’s front office than the coaching staff. It also helps that he worked in New York and understands the pressures of working for a high-profile, Original Six franchise. While not a deciding factor, this experience is certainly invaluable.
The biggest thing that stands out about Quinn and his career, though, is his experience coaching at multiple levels. There have been many instances of coaches unsuccessfully moving up to the NHL from the AHL or the collegiate level, but there have also been many successes. From coaching overseas at this year’s Olympics to working at BU, Quinn’s seen the game from multiple lenses and has no shortage of developing players. Not to mention, if Chicago goes this route, he’ll also reunite with both Joneses and Lafferty. Bringing in someone with a few existing connections wouldn’t hurt, given I see all three of those players returning.
Now, it’s questionable whether the Rangers would’ve had the same improvement, if any, had they kept Quinn this season over hiring Gallant or another candidate. However, it’s also important to remember that while improvement was expected for New York this season, they largely exceeded expectations by reaching the 100-point plateau. Of course, this would be a welcome surprise for the Blackhawks when they reach a similar point, but Quinn largely helped his players grow. His depth of experience outside the NHL suggests he could still be a viable option once Chicago contends.
While I appreciate Derek King and his personality, the Blackhawks need a fresh voice behind the bench, specifically someone who’s willing to be patient and grow with his players yet provide a sense of clarity. Despite an abrupt ending to his Rangers tenure, Quinn deserves a second shot in the NHL.
Quinn Is a Realistic Target for Chicago
As much as some fans may want the Blackhawks to hire an established veteran such as Barry Trotz, Claude Julien, or even a no-nonsense personality like John Tortorella or Mike Babcock, I just don’t see those options being realistic for Chicago right now. Of course, anything’s possible. But all four of those names, among others, have paid their dues and would probably want to coach a team in “win-now” mode like the Winnipeg Jets or Vegas Golden Knights rather than a flawed Blackhawks club.
Other potential candidates such as Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde and St. Louis Blues assistant coach Jim Montgomery are just a few names with a similar career path to Quinn’s. However, what makes Quinn particularly appealing is that he’s guided a rebuild before and has helped players grow not just at one but multiple levels, from the international stage to the NHL to collegiate. This is exactly what the Blackhawks should be looking for if Quinn is willing to embrace another rebuild.
Though Quinn may seem like purely a developmental coach, if he gradually guides the Blackhawks as he did with the Rangers, he could certainly stay around once Chicago begins winning again. Given he’s in his mid-50s, his coaching career is still relatively young. He has time to make himself a household name if he gets another NHL opportunity.
This would certainly be an interesting hire by Davidson and his staff, and one that might seem like a risk since Quinn’s never led a contending club. Davidson, though, has said on multiple occasions that he’s willing to think outside of the box and make bold decisions, such as hiring Greenberg, who previously worked for the Chicago Cubs and had zero NHL experience. As the Blackhawks get younger and revamp their system, Quinn is an intriguing candidate the team should pursue because of his experience and willingness to guide up-and-coming players.
Connor Smith covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. He is from Naperville, Illinois, and recently graduated from Ball State University in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, earning summa cum laude honors. This fall, he plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism in Chicago to further his studies and earn his master’s. Along with The Hockey Writers, he’s written and edited for The Ball State Daily News, Ball State’s on-campus student newspaper, and has interned for Best Version Media (BVM) Sports and Jersey Column, a Georgia-based sports blog. You can find more info about Smith and his work through his online portfolio, connornsmith0719.wordpress.com.