Let’s just start by saying we should all take this with a grain of salt, but here we go: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote that there are “rumors out of Chicago that Joel Quenneville could be in trouble” in his latest 31 Thoughts column.
It’s unclear what rumors Friedman is specifically referring to, and he proceeds to express his amazement at the idea that Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the second-most wins in NHL history, could actually be fired by the Hawks. Still, here’s the full section:
I’m amazed at the rumours out of Chicago that Joel Quenneville could be in trouble. If he wants a change, that’s one thing. But getting fired? Really? Quenneville would be unemployed as long as he wanted to be unemployed. And someone could very well drop a Babcock-style contract on him.
Anytime someone as plugged in as Friedman brings up something like this in a published article, it can’t really be ignored. We’re not sure exactly what local rumors he’s amazed at — there have been lots of rumblings about Q’s job on social media, but little in the way of firm reports — but apparently whatever Friedman heard or saw was enough to bring it up.
Quenneville, 59, is currently signed with the Blackhawks through the 2019-20 season on a deal that pays roughly $6 million per year, one of the highest salaries for any NHL coach. Since joining the franchise in 2008, he’s reached the playoffs every season and won three Stanley Cups.
But the pressure has been increasing amid a disappointing season that sees the Blackhawks currently last in their division. And given a roster that doesn’t offer much flexibility due to contract commitments, firing Quenneville is one of the major moves that GM Stan Bowman could make without many hurdles.
Remember, it was Quenneville who was reportedly upset over the summer when Bowman fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, Q’s longtime right hand man. And it was Quenneville who openly bristled at the trade of Niklas Hjalmarsson, another example of apparent discord.
It’s not unreasonable to think that those problems might be magnified now that the team isn’t winning, either. It’s always easier to get along when things are going well.
The biggest problems with firing Quenneville are his capacity and track record as coach. He’s clearly one of the best coaches in the NHL, as Friedman pointed out, and would get scooped up by another team as soon as he’s interested. Rangers fans are already in my mentions doing the TWO BIG EYEBALLS emoji. His extended success really speaks for itself. But it shows where this season is at that we’re even discussing this.
Again, it’s not really clear what rumors Friedman is referring to, and it’s possible this doesn’t go anywhere. But the idea of Quenneville being fired was just brought up in a column by one of the top reporters in hockey, and you have to figure he didn’t pull that out of nowhere.