Quenneville's time in Chicago: 'Nothing but great'

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Joel Quenneville says he can't wait to get started with the Florida Panthers, and has nothing but good feelings about his time leading the Blackhawks.

    Joel Quenneville says he can't wait to get started with the Florida Panthers, and has nothing but good feelings about his time leading the Blackhawks. Associated Press

  • Joel Quenneville hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks finished off Tampa Bay in June 2015 at the United Center.

    Joel Quenneville hoists the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks finished off Tampa Bay in June 2015 at the United Center. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon introduced Joel Quenneville as the team's new coach in April in Sunrise, Fla.

    Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon introduced Joel Quenneville as the team's new coach in April in Sunrise, Fla. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/3/2019 12:31 PM

For 10 seasons, Joel Quenneville helped guide the Chicago Blackhawks to the most prestigious run in franchise history.

He will go down in history next to Phil Jackson, Mike Ditka, George Halas and Joe Maddon as one of the most revered coaches in the city.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So it's no surprise Quenneville's firing last November sent seismic shock waves through the city. Many figured the man who brought three Stanley Cup titles to a franchise that had not seen one since 1961 deserved more than 15 games to show what he could do with last year's roster.

Quenneville went quietly into the sunset. He was content to let his body of work speak for itself, but also wanted to stay out of the way as the Hawks moved on without him.

Five months later -- when Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon inked him to a five-year contract -- the 61-year-old Quenneville traded snow, slush and ice for sun, warmth and an entirely new scenery.

"It's a different environment down here in Florida -- I'm looking out the window with palm trees blowing," Quenneville said in a phone interview this week as he prepared the up-and-coming Panthers for their season opener. "That's something I haven't seen.

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"But it's that time of year where we're playing for keeps, and I can't wait to get started. I think it's going to be a great year and we'll have a lot of fun doing it."

Florida is the fourth team Quenneville's been hired to lead. The third one, of course, was the Hawks.

That marriage began four games into the 2008-09 season and under Quenneville's steady hand, the Hawks gave Chicago a thrill ride eclipsed only by the Bulls' dynasty of the 1990s.

Cracks in the foundation started appearing after Nashville swept Jonathan Toews and Co. out of the 2017 postseason. The 2017-18 campaign was a tumultuous roller coaster in which Quenneville saw Artemi Panarin traded to Columbus, Niklas Hjalmarsson shipped to Arizona and Corey Crawford go down with a concussion.

Some thought Quenneville might be let go, but President and CEO John McDonough told a small group of reporters that he believed in the veteran coach, as well as GM Stan Bowman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Hawks charged out of the gates last season by going 6-2-2, but a five-game losing streak followed.

And that's all it took.

Quenneville was fired with less than 20 percent of the schedule completed.

Was this fair? Didn't he deserve more rope?

"You know what, I didn't look at it or assess it like that," Quenneville said. "I know that it was one of those situations where in our business we know that when the time's up ... there's (also) the other side and how they view it. We didn't get in that discussion.

"The memories I had when I left Chicago were so great that I left on that note. … It was a positive experience in every aspect.

"The endings are never exactly how you want it. So we'll move forward knowing that the experience in Chicago was nothing but great."

He's moving forward with a Florida squad that has managed just two playoff appearances this century. The Panthers boast plenty of young talent, though, and they signed one of the best goalies in the league in Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in July.

Much like he did when he came to the up-and-coming Blackhawks, Quenneville believes he's come to the Panthers at the perfect time.

"I look back when I was in Chicago -- (that) team was sitting on 'GO,' " Quenneville said.

"This is a team that's looking like it's ready to go to the next step and the timing is great to be a part of that. (I) look forward to meeting that challenge."

Perhaps the biggest challenge -- emotionally, anyway -- will come when Quenneville sits on the visiting bench Jan. 21 when the Panthers visit the United Center. The crowd's reaction after Quenneville is announced figures to go down as one of the more memorable moments in franchise history.

Try to get him to bite on how he'll react and it should come as no surprise that the stoic veteran steers clear.

Mostly.

"I've got our opening game (Thursday) -- that's the game I'm thinking about right now," Quenneville said.

Still ...

"I'm sure I'm going to be excited about being in Chicago with the way that it's been over the years there," Quenneville said.

"It's a special place. We were fortunate."

Don't Hawks fans know it.

• Twitter: @johndietzdh

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