Chicago Blackhawks extend Quenneville's deal through 2019-20 season
From the time the Blackhawks won it all in 1961 until they fired Denis Savard in 2008, the franchise gave 16 different men an opportunity to lead the team to another championship.
From Bob Pulford to Mike Keenan to Darryl Sutter to Craig Hartsburg to Brian Sutter to Savard … not one of them won a Stanley Cup. And other than Billy Reay (1963-76), not one of them lasted more than four seasons.
Now, though, the Blackhawks have established themselves as the model franchise in the NHL, led by the steady hand of one of the league's best coaches in Joel Quenneville.
It's a fact that owner Rocky Wirtz, chairman and president John McDonough and general manager Stan Bowman know all too well, and the Hawks' brain trust rewarded Quenneville on Tuesday with a three-year extension worth a reported $6 million a year, according to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos. The deal runs through the 2019-20 season.
"(I) thank Rocky and John and Stan," Quenneville said. "It's been a fun time here and we've got a fun situation going on right now here. It's been a good stretch and look forward to trying to continue on."
Quenneville, whose head-coaching career began with the St. Louis Blues midway through the 1996-97 season, has won 782 games over his coaching career -- 344 with the Hawks -- and sits 1 win from passing Al Arbour as the second-winningest coach in NHL history.
"Well, it's great news," captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think it's awesome. You've seen … players that have been big parts of the Cup runs that we've had get rewarded in that regard and have that security as far as a contract goes. I think we're all happy to see Q rewarded in that sense."
When the Hawks promoted Quenneville in 2008, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was just a 21-year-old trying to crack the Hawks' roster.
His first thoughts?
"My first impression was that he was pretty intimidating," Hjalmarsson said. "I was always looking at him on TV when they showed highlights and stuff like that, and he looks like he can be a pretty mad person.
"But it's turned out to be he's mad when he needs to (be), and be a good coach when he has to (be)."
Toews was all of 20 and just beginning his second NHL campaign when Quenneville replaced Denis Savard. Toews said he knew the atmosphere was going to change immediately.
"We knew when Joel came in, he meant business," Toews said, "and the experienced guys within our room right away knew it wouldn't be long before we'd have some success in the playoffs. And as you saw, it didn't take us long. We went to the conference final (in 2009) and went straight to the Cup the next year.
"He brought that experience from Day One and we've seen the same thing ever since."
Getting through the grind
Let's start by stating the obvious: Joel Quenneville is very, very fortunate he was hired by a team that had Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Patrick Sharp on the roster. Marian Hossa was signed during the 2009 off-season, and it's that seven-man core that was part of all three Stanley Cup runs.
Yet, could any coach have come to Chicago and won those titles? Or keep winning so consistently? Or keep the respect of his players for so long?
"To manage good hockey players like he's done here in Chicago is a real art," said Hawks radio analyst Troy Murray. "A lot of coaches have a short life span and get good results in those times, but their coaching methods sometimes in the long run aren't conducive to players after awhile still listening to (them)."
So what are Quenneville's secrets?
• One is that he played 803 games in the NHL as a defenseman, bringing him instant credibility.
• Another is he understands how to push his players buttons, from offering praise when things are going well to benching a guy for taking a bad penalty, allowing a bad goal or not playing hard -- or smart -- for an extended period of time.
• He also doesn't wear his team out. The Blackhawks might hold fewer practices than any team in the NHL and even when they do the practices are crisp, short and to the point.
Said the 37-year-old Hossa: "It would be tough for me to play for some different organization (laughs). I've been getting used to these days off."
All kidding aside, it's impossible to overstate how important rest is for a team that has made three straight long playoff runs.
"(A) lot of coaches won't give their players days off if they're struggling," said former Blackhawk and current TV analyst Eddie Olczyk. "He knows his team. He gives his team a lot of rest. … It's more important than practicing because the most important thing is getting 2 points every night."
Adjusting on the fly
Quenneville being a former defenseman, it should come as no shock that he puts a huge emphasis on keeping the other team off the scoreboard.
He also understands the importance of a four-line rotation that can generate scoring chances on a consistent basis. That fact is the primary reason fans don't see Toews and Kane on the same line very often.
Yet, when the need arises -- as it did last year in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against Anaheim -- he will put the dynamic duo together. The results are often electric, often because the opponent is caught off-guard.
Another strategic move of genius came in Game 7 against the Ducks when Quenneville had Toews, Kane and Brandon Saad jump off the ice after the opening faceoff to get them away from the Ryan Kesler line.
Less than three minutes into the game it was 1-0 and the rout was on.
"Trying to take some of the rhythm out of Anaheim," noted Pierre McGuire on the TV telecast moments after the line change was made. "That's a smart move by Quenneville in Game 7."
Those kind of adjustments are the easy ones to spot. Then there are tweaks he will make in the middle of a series to give his team the upper hand.
"When our system is not working anymore and they read it, he doesn't mind to switch something (else)," Hossa said. "We come the next day and all of a sudden we win the hockey game because of that. …
"You don't see it lots when I've been with different teams, but he likes to do it. Guys understand it and it's been working."
And it has paid off as it was certainly no accident that the Hawks climbed out of series holes against Nashville in 2010, Detroit in 2013, Boston in 2013 and Anaheim in 2015.
"It's not by fluke that this team has won three championships in the last six years," Murray said. "Obviously you need the players to get the job done. But how you handle those players and what adjustments you make are things that overall you can't see (from afar)."
Not always easy
McDonough isn't shy about telling people that things aren't always rosy inside the Blackhawks organization. People disagree and butt heads. There are arguments and differences in philosophy.
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
Quenneville's certainly ruffled his fair share of feathers over the seven-plus seasons he has been the Hawks' head coach. He said as much in a jam-packed locker room only moments after the team won the Cup last June.
"We said the best part of winning the Cup is the road to trying to win the Cup," Quenneville yelled. "And when you look back over it -- whether it's one day or 10 years -- you're going to say that roller-coaster ride that we're on (going) up and down was a (heck) of an achievement at the end of the day.
"Everybody was (ticked) off at me (for) one minute or one day. At the end of the day … I am so proud of you guys!!!"
One of the players clearly steamed during the Western Conference finals was Antoine Vermette, who was scratched for Game 3 and made his feelings quite clear in the locker room that day.
The Hawks lost that game and Vermette played the hero in Game 4, beating the Ducks with an overtime winner to even the series at 2-2.
"It's not a pleasant (feeling)," Vermette said last May of sitting out Game 3. "Like a proud competitor like everybody else on this team, you want to be part of the team. … I think that's a natural emotion to get."
Quenneville certainly hasn't been perfect during his time in Chicago. Some were wondering if his job might be on the line during a particularly rough road trip in 2012. And while getting eliminated in the first round by Arizona might have added a bit of fuel to that fire, Quenneville persevered and led the Hawks to a second title in 2013.
In the end, Quenneville gives his players the two things that former player Olczyk said are most important: structure and discipline. There's not much gray area when it comes to dealing with the head coach.
So while the players may not always like his decisions -- or what's coming out of his mouth -- they more often than not respect the consistent message.
"Usually the times he gets (ticked) off at me is when I've done something wrong," Hjalmarsson said, "so I can't disagree with him.
Quenneville wouldn't say how much longer he plans on coaching, only that he's "having too much fun" right now to give it much thought.
As for where he eventually will stand among the greatest coaches of all time, that's for the experts to decide.
At the minimum, a Hall of Fame bust is a given.
"It doesn't ever seem he's up for coach of the year, and we all feel in here that he can be there every year and win that award every year," Kane said. "He's been great with us and we're very lucky and fortunate to have him."
But where does Quenneville stand among Chicago's greatest coaches? Do fans put him in the same stratosphere as Mike Ditka or Phil Jackson?
Maybe, maybe not, but Olczyk said "there's a great understanding of how great he is and what he's done for the city and the franchise. Is anybody ever going to be bigger than Mike Ditka? Probably not.
"(But), I mean, they've all got the mustache. He's not out of the team photo, right? Because he's got the mustache and he's won a championship. I think the team is still earning respect in this town."
As happy and honored as he is to coach in a city like Chicago, Quenneville said Tuesday that in his wildest dreams he couldn't have foreseen the success this team has had in less than eight seasons.
"Things developed in a great way right off the bat," he said. "We had a ton of young kids that were very competitive, loved being around each other, improved as we were going through those years. … It was a great beginning.
"It's a tremendous group to work with knowing that your leaders have that type of character that you hope to have in your team. They really do send the right message, and as a coach you couldn't ask for a better situation to be in."
One that he will be in until at least 2020. As for reaching Scotty Bowman's 1,244 wins?
"That's a long, long, long, long, long, way away," Quenneville said.
But just keep winning and anything's possible.
• Follow John's Hawks reports on Twitter @johndietzdh.