Chicago Blackhawks team president John McDonough put an end to speculation general manager Stan Bowman and/or coach Joel Quenneville would be fired this spring during a chat with reporters Thursday. McDonough said the three-time Stanley Cup winning duo would return to the Hawks next season.
McDonough specifically debunked the notion that Quenneville doesn’t coach young players well.
“Joel’s done a very good job with the young players,” McDonough told Mark Lazerus of The Chicago Sun-Times. “And I think it’s inspiring to see that there are a lot of good young players on the way. I know at one point, that was kind of a knock on Joel, that he wasn’t proficient at coaching young players. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Chicago rookie Alex DeBrincat surpassed Patrick Kane for the team lead in goals with his 28th tally this season against the St. Louis Blues in Wednesday night’s 4-3 comeback win. DeBrincat, a 2016 second-round pick, is tied for second in team points (52) with Jonathan Toews and second-year player Nick Schmaltz is third (51). The next closest player is forward Brandon Saad with 35 points. Vinnie Hinostroza, another second-year player and 2012 sixth-rounder, is eighth on the team in goals (seven) and points (25) in only 48 games.
And it’s not only the forward young corps that has found success this season.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, 26, and Jordan Oesterle, 25, each have 15 points this season and have progressively improved as Quenneville has trusted them more. Gustafsson’s production led him to signing a two-year contract extension March 6, and since then he’s scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists). Quenneville has also managed to help Jan Rutta adjust in his first season in North America. Rutta, who signed a one-year deal with the Hawks last offseason, has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 55 games this season. The Czech defenseman also will be back next season on a one-year deal.
Even Blake Hillman, who the Hawks signed to a two-year deal after his junior season at Denver, has showed some skills. Hillman, a 2014 sixth-round pick, scored his first NHL career goal Wednesday and is among five Chicago players who have scored their first NHL goal this season.