This is Joel Quenneville’s 21st season coaching in the NHL, and to date, his teams have only missed the playoffs once. Quenneville was named Blackhawks head coach in October of 2008, and since then, they have never missed the playoffs. Barring a miracle, it seems that this is the first year that they will do so.
After two disappointing post seasons in a row, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman promised change. If they completely miss the postseason this year, what’s to stop the organization from firing Joel Quenneville? After all, he is the longest tenured coach in the NHL right now, in his 10th year with the club.
Hypothetically, let’s say the organization does decide to move on at the conclusion of this season. Who is available, in the system and throughout the league, to replace Quenneville?
Throughout the League
Let’s start with the more interesting of the two. What head coaches around the league are on expiring contracts? Checking out the available contract information for NHL head coaches as well as their teams may be helpful.
It’s important to note that I haven’t heard any of these names tied to the Blackhawks, they are just coaches who currently don’t have a contract for next year.
Trotz is on the final year of his contract with the Washington Capitals, paying him $1.5 million per season. This is his fourth season with the club, where he has a 190-83-34 regular season record and a 20-19 playoff record to date.
He coached the Capitals to a 120 point 2015-16 season, and he won the Jack Adam’s award that season as the league’s best coach. He followed up that campaign with a 118 point 2016-17 season.
Before coaching for the Capitals, Trotz was the head coach of the Nashville for 15 years. Coaching in 1,196 regular season games for the Predators, his record was 557-479-60. His playoff record wasn’t as successful, being 19-31.
While Trotz has never won a Stanley Cup, he seemingly knows how to establish and continue a winning culture in a locker room. While no active coach has the pedigree of Joel Quenneville, Trotz would be a very respected name in the room if he was to come to Chicago.
Housley is currently the head coach for the Buffalo Sabres, and his contract, paying him $1 million per year, expires at this season’s conclusion. This season is his first as a head coach, and he is already on the hot seat, after coaching the team to a 18-32-11 record to date.
Housley had a very successful NHL career as a player, recording 1,232 points in 1,495 regular season games. He also played in 85 postseason games, recording 56 points. In his 23 seasons, he played for the following teams: Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Chicago Blackhawks (!), Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Alain Vigneault has been the coach of the New York Rangers since the 2013-14 season, and he is currently on the last year of his contract that pays him $2 million per season. He took the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with the club, and his team was defeated by the Los Angeles Kings.
He has coached 1,196 regular season games and 139 playoff games in his career, split between the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers. Other than taking the Rangers to the Stanley Cup, he has only gotten that far one other time in his career, when his Vancouver Canucks were defeated in the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Final.
Vigneault has minimal NHL playing experience, he played 42 games for the St. Louis Blues across four seasons in the early 1980’s.
Similar to Trotz, Vigneault would be highly respected in the room if he was to be hired by the Blackhawks. He has coached for 16 seasons in both the Western and Eastern Conference, he knows as much about the game as any current NHL head coach.
In the System
A few coaches on the Blackhawks and Rockford Ice Hogs have prior head coaching experience and therefore could make sense for the job.
Dineen has prior NHL head coaching experience with the Florida Panthers, where he was a head coach during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. He was let go early into the 2013-14 season. During his time with the Panthers, he took the team to the postseason once, where they lost in game seven of the first round. As a head coach for the Panthers, his record was 56-62-28.
He was hired as an assistant coach by the Blackhawks in July of 2014, and he helped coach the team to winning the Stanley Cup that season. He has been recognized around the league as having head coaching potential, and he interviewed for head coaching positions throughout the league in 2016 before deciding to return to the Blackhawks.
Dineen played 1,188 games in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Samuelsson has plenty of prior coaching experience at all levels. He was an assistant coach for the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) in the 2005-06 season. He then served as an associate coach for the Phoenix Coyotes from the 2006-07 season through the 2010-11 season.
He spent the 2013-14 through 2015-16 seasons as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers. Lastly, before coming to the Blackhawks, he spent the 2016-17 season as the head coach for the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).
Besides coaching, Samuelsson has extensive playing experience as well, playing 1,080 total NHL games. He started with the Hartford Whalers in the 1984-85 season and played with them through the middle of the 1990-91 season. He spent part of that season with the Pittsburgh Penguins as well, and then played with them through the 1994-95 season.
He jumped around the last few seasons of his career, playing with the New York Rangers through the 1998-99 season, but he finished that season in Detroit. His last NHL season was 1999-00 season, played with the Flyers.
Colliton is in his first season as head coach of the Rockford Ice Hogs, he was hired in May of 2017. Before joining the Blackhawks organization, he spent the last four seasons as a head coach in the SHL.
He has some NHL experience as well, although he spent most of his career splitting time between the AHL and NHL. Most of his success came in the AHL, where he amassed 203 points in 326 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Over five seasons in the New York Islanders organization, he played in 57 NHL games, tallying six points. His last NHL game came in the 2010-11 season.
If he was hired to be the head coach of the Blackhawks, it would likely be a few years down the road. He is only 33-years old and he lacks extensive coaching experience at a high level.
An interesting idea would be having Colliton coach the next generation of Blackhawks down in Rockford, then “graduate” with them (in a sense) up to the NHL.
I am by no means condoning the Blackhawks firing Joel Quenneville. He is one of the best coaches in NHL history, and might go down as the best of all time by the time his career ends. If the Blackhawks do decide to part ways with Quenneville after this season, they are going to have to consider a few factors.
Do they see Jeremy Colliton or Ulf Samuelsson as the coach of the future? Who can bridge the gap until they are ready?
Do they want someone who has been in the system for a while, like Kevin Dineen, to take over? Do they want an experienced coach like Barry Trotz or Alain Vigneault coming in?
What do you think, Blackhawks fans? What should the team do with the coaching predicament? Do you like any of the names that I mentioned, or who else could potentially take over?