Whatever moves the Chicago Blackhawks make in response to their first-round sweep, they won’t involve head coach Joel Quenneville. GM Stan Bowman said the team would be retaining Quenneville for a 10th season on Saturday as part of his first comments to open a long offseason.
So while we can rest assured that the Blackhawks won’t take their recent butt-kicking lightly, they will be depending on Bowman and Quenneville to once again shape the vision of the team. It appears those two have their jobs safe and sound for now.
And despite a brutal four losses to the Nashville Predators that exposed the Blackhawks as being too slow, too old, and too content, this is the right move. The Hawks can get back to the top of the mountain quickly if they execute properly. Cleaning house, or at least firing the coaching staff, would be an aggressive move without an obvious alternative.
It also wouldn’t really fix what ails the Blackhawks. Despite all the criticism of the Blackhawks being unprepared for what the Predators threw at them, Bowman is the one who built a roster full of rookies and veterans who were unprepared to match their opponent’s speed and intensity.
Should Quenneville have done something sooner to respond to the neutral zone trap? Should he have recognized Artem Anisimov wasn’t himself and tried to mix up the center rotation sooner? Should he have tried playing Michal Kempny before Game 4?
Quenneville did make constant adjustments throughout the four-game series trying to get his team going, though. They just never worked, and it seems like that was a matter of personnel as much as questionable strategic planning.
If anything, it would make more sense for the Blackhawks to consider making a coaching change below Quenneville. Mike Kitchen and Kevin Dineen are good coaches, but the special teams was unacceptably bad in 2016-17. There’s no reason for a power play to depend so heavily on slap shots from the point and one-timers from the high left dot, yet the Blackhawks settled into that system even as it wasn’t working.
The Blackhawks’ special teams have been all over the place under Quenneville, with their stellar work during even strength powering their consistent success. But after the season they just had, and with Quenneville being safe, it’d make sense to consider changes elsewhere on the coaching staff so we don’t have to watch another season of five superstars passing around the perimeter hoping to create a one-timer.
So now we have confirmation that Quenneville won’t be part of the turnover hitting Chicago this summer, and it makes sense to retain him. The Blackhawks still have one of the best coaches in the NHL. But with the stability on the coaching staff, don’t be surprised if the team tries to make aggressive roster changes so something is different next season.