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updated: 5/10/2012 8:54 AM

Pressure now on Hawks' Quenneville

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  • Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has put himself on the spot with the removal of assistant coach Mike Haviland, who was popular among the players.

       Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has put himself on the spot with the removal of assistant coach Mike Haviland, who was popular among the players.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 

You don't get to seventh on the all-time wins list without being a heck of an NHL coach.

And there's no disputing that Joel Quenneville -- who won a Stanley Cup here two years ago -- is a heck of an NHL coach.

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His teams have won 624 games, and assuming he survives the next two years on his Blackhawks contract, he's going to make it all the way up to third on the list, behind Hall of Famers Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour.

But right now there's no assuming he will last two more seasons here.

After the firing of assistant coach Mike Haviland on Tuesday, Quenneville has painted a target on his back, and he's going to need more from his team in 2012-13 in order to continue working here.

Obviously, much of his success will rely on the work this summer of GM Stan Bowman, but Quenneville unnecessarily put more pressure on himself and his staff by removing Haviland instead of Mike Kitchen.

Haviland is an excellent coach, and the organization is not stronger today than it was a couple of days ago without Haviland, who was popular among the players and played a large role in the development of about two-thirds of the Stanley Cup-winning roster.

He's also not one to be shy with his opinions, so when Haviland sees something that isn't working, he says what he believes in his own mild-mannered way.

That is not a comfortable fit for Quenneville, who inherited Haviland when he succeeded Denis Savard.

Faced with the increased chatter that the defensemen don't like Kitchen and that Kitchen failed the special teams, Quenneville not only fired Haviland but then blamed him for the Hawks' failures.

Not a smart public-relations move. Not a good way to endear himself to his players.

"Some people look at it that I chose to keep a friend or a buddy (Kitchen). I don't look at people like that," Quenneville said. "I think there's a misconception on how Kitch is been viewed.

"Kitch is getting blamed for the power play. These are facts: (In 2010-11), our power play was fourth in the league and our penalty killing was 25th. Kitch had the power play.

"We made the change (in 2011-12) and after 15 games our PP was 30th in the league, so we went back. Kitch got the PP back and Havvy got the penalty kill. The numbers weren't good."

The penalty kill wasn't good, but the power play the next 67 games continued to be bad (26th) and was horrendous in the playoffs (1-for-19), so Quenneville's argument for firing Haviland doesn't hold water.

As for why Bowman would allow it, one can imagine Quenneville complaining that he wants his own staff in place, and that the Hawks suffered from dysfunction.

Another word for it is disagreement, and that's not Quenneville's style. He doesn't like conflict, even if it's a healthy conflict.

So now he's gotten his way. He has put the blame on Haviland, and Quenneville has put himself on the spot.

Bowman may have no choice but to make a coaching change next spring if there's another massive losing streak, or if the Hawks don't make a long playoff run next season.

That's not to say Bowman wants to make a change, and reports of their discomfort with each other have been overblown.

But now Bowman has given Quenneville the staff he wants -- after he chooses a replacement for Haviland -- rather than force him to remove Kitchen, and that puts Quenneville in the cross hairs.

Besides, Quenneville did not do a good job handling Corey Crawford this season, and he was slow to make adjustments in the Phoenix series, refusing to change the way the Hawks attacked the Coyotes until Game 6.

Despite some mistakes, Joel Quenneville is still a good coach, but if he wants to remain a good coach here, he's going to need some good results.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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