Chicago Blackhawks' Quenneville ponders the future
All pro coaches at every level in every sport possess a win-now mentality.
Really, there's no choice, especially in the day and age in which we live where fan bases have little to no patience for rebuilding projects.
On the other hand, general managers -- especially in the NHL where the salary cap can cause huge headaches -- must take a big-picture mentality to the franchise they are running.
Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gets both sides of the equation, but that didn't make Friday any easier for a coach who watched Stan Bowman trade away dynamic forward Artemi Panarin and a fearless, team-first defenseman in Niklas Hjalmarsson.
"Very emotional deals. There's a lot to process there," Quenneville said Saturday while Rounds 2-7 of the NHL draft were being held at the United Center. "You look at what Hammer meant to the team and brought to the team; he was one of those warriors. …
"The Bread Man had a special time here as well, and in a short amount of time made a big impact on the team and the city. It's tough when you're losing players of that dynamic."
Hjalmarsson admitted he knew things were serious when the Hawks asked him to submit a list of 10 teams to which he'd be willing to be traded.
"I had a great time in Chicago and I enjoyed every single year playing in front of the best fans in the league," he said.
As for Quenneville, all he can do now is move forward, and he certainly is happy to have Brandon Saad back in the fold. Fans can expect the 24-year-old to reclaim his spot on the top line, playing next to captain Jonathan Toews.
"I think we got it in our minds that he'd be a perfect fit on Jonny's left side," Quenneville said.
As for Kane losing Panarin, Quenneville echoed Bowman's thoughts from the day before and wasn't worried about the 2016 MVP's ability to post huge numbers no matter whom he's playing with.
Expect the Hawks to try many combinations with their blue liners, a group likely to consist of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, the newly acquired Connor Murphy, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival. Jan Rutta, David Kampf, Erik Gustafsson and Ville Pokka also should figure into the mix.
Quenneville said it's possible Keith and Seabrook will be reunited as the top D pairing.
"There's a lot of options, and I'm sure everybody is going to get a chance to play with one another early in the season," the coach said. "(Assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson) is excited about working with our 'D'. The complexion changed quite a bit."
Quenneville admitted these moves were made -- at least in part -- because of how Nashville completely dominated puck possession during a four-game sweep of the Hawks in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Hawks never matched Nashville's speed, intensity or grit in an ugly week of hockey.
"Jonny's line's always been a line that's been more of a puck-possession line and been a threat in the offensive zone. I think Saader adds that element," Quenneville said. "That's one area we add that element where we've got a little bit more bite or a little more edge to be harder to play against."
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