In perhaps the most bizarre move of the 2018-19 NHL season so far, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to part ways with head coach Joel Quenneville after starting the season with a 6-6-3 record. The Blackhawks, who missed the playoffs last year, promoted their AHL coach, Jeremy Colliton, to take over the reigns and try to right the ship. At 33 years old, Colliton is now the youngest head coach in the NHL and actually played on the same Under-18 and World Junior Championship team as current Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.
If Quenneville were to announce his retirement tomorrow, he is without a doubt a lock to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. A head coach in the NHL since 1996, Quenneville leaves Chicago with a career record (including playoffs) of 1,008-629-207. With over 1,000 career victories, Quenneville is second all-time in wins for an NHL coach, behind only the legendary Scotty Bowman. He’s also won three Stanley Cups in his career – all with the Blackhawks.
With Quenneville being the most attractive coaching candidate in recent memory, front offices around the NHL who were considering firing their head coach may want to pull the trigger immediately. Here are a few places where he could end up if he chooses to continue his coaching career.
Los Angeles Kings
The most obvious landing spot for Quenneville would be the only other NHL team who has also fired their head coach this season. After an abysmal start, the Kings canned John Stevens and handed over the reigns to Willie Desjardins. If the Kings wants to make a run at signing Quenneville, they’ll have to sell the larger than life commodities that come with living in Los Angeles because the Kings are far from being a contender.
At an average age of nearly 29, the Kings are the oldest team in the NHL, and for a league that is only getting faster, that’s the wrong end of the spectrum to be on. Ilya Kovalchuk has been a surprise, who at 35 years old is leading the team in scoring, and Drew Doughty is one of the premier defenseman in the NHL, but their talents alone likely won’t be enough to sway Quenneville.
One of the reasons for Stevens’ firing was Kings general manager Rob Blake wanted to see more passion and fire from his team. “What Willie will bring — what we want to bring back — is we want to get the compete level up in our players,” Blake said. “We’ve got to get the passion back in the game. We expect fully that he can right that and take us in the right direction.” (from ‘Kings fire John Stevens, name Willie Desjardins as interim coach’, LA Times – 11/4/18)
Blake has stated that Desjardins will remain the coach throughout the rest of this season, but if things continue to go south, the Kings front office will make a hard push to bring in Quenneville. There is likely not a bigger motivator for the Kings players than having the second-winningest coach in NHL history standing behind the bench.
As of writing this, the Edmonton Oilers are in a decent position to make the playoffs, but after an embarrassingly poor season last year, if they falter again, it’s likely that Todd McLellan will be on his way out. Quenneville has proven that he knows how to handle generational superstars after leading Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to three Stanley Cup championships. Pairing him with Connor McDavid could be a recipe for success in Edmonton.
McDavid wouldn’t be the only beneficiary of a proven winner like Quenneville being hired as head coach. Leon Draisaitl and former number-one overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could also use the added guidance to take their game to the next level. It is going to take quite the sales pitch to acquire Quenneville, but if the front office in Edmonton handles their contract situations better than Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman did in Chicago, the Oilers could realistically make a run to get him. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to coach arguably the best player in the world.
The Emerald City
It’s highly unlikely that Quenneville goes anywhere immediately. After over 20 consecutive seasons as a head coach in the NHL, he more than deserves the rest of this season off. Whether it’s hitting the slopes in Colorado or relaxing on the links in Florida, Coach Q will get the rest of the year to relax and decide whether or not he wants to return to coaching. If he decides he wants to coach again, Quenneville could easily become the first head coach for the NHL’s latest expansion project in Seattle.
After seeing the success the Vegas Golden Knights had in their inaugural season, and knowing that Seattle’s expansion draft will be under the exact same boundaries as they were for the Golden Knights, there may not be a more perfect situation to fall right into Quenneville’s lap. If you’re one of the top investors behind the NHL team in Seattle, you are doing anything and everything in your power to get him behind the bench.