Blackhawks News

The NHL’s Top Three Head Coaches

By Skylar Peters
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Jun 14, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks head coach

Joel Quenneville

shoots the puck during practice the day before game two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

  • #1: Joel Quenneville

Joel Quenneville is legendary throughout the league for gruff voice, great moustache, and successful teams in front of him. The first two come naturally, but the last one of the three has came about due to his years and years studying , playing, and living the game of hockey.

Quenneville’s hockey career started way back in 1978, when he was drafted 21st overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would play for Toronto, the now-defunct Colorado Rockies and Hartford Whalers, as well as the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. Quenneville, a two-way defenseman, had a lot of regular season success, but never earned a Stanley Cup as a player over his 13-year career. Those years of experience are very valuable behind the bench, where he is one of the best all-time.

His coaching career started in a very unique way; Quenneville served as a player-coach for the St. John’s Maple Leafs. He became a full-time coach in 1993, with the Springfield Indians of the AHL. He then made the move to the NHL, becoming an assistant coach for the Quebec Nordiques for their final season in 1994-95. He followed the franchise for their move to Colorado in 1995-96, and won his first Stanley Cup ring.

The St. Louis Blues brought in Quenneville midway through the next season after a disastrous start. Quenneville had just enough time to straighten out St. Louis, and they snuck into the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round. Quenneville would continue to have stellar regular seasons with the Blues, winning a Central Division title as well as a President’s Trophy, in 2000. Despite all of the Blues’ regular season success, they could not keep it together in the Playoffs, and would only get to the Conference Final round once, 2001. Quenneville would be fired in 2004 after sending the Blues to the post-season in all 7 seasons. He would take home the Jack Adams Award as best head coach in the NHL, in 2000.

The Colorado Avalanche picked up Quenneville for the second time, adding him as their head coach before the lockout in 2004-05. Once hockey finally got going in 2005-06, he took the Avalanche to the playoffs, a remarkable feat after many expected them to tank in the standings. They beat the Dallas Stars in the first round, but would go no further. The Avalanche would miss the playoffs the following year, but qualify once again, losing to the eventual champion Red Wings in the conference semi-finals.

Quenneville’s contract was never renewed, and he was hired by the Chicago Blackhawks as a pro scout in the months before the 2008-09 campaign. In his first season in the Windy City, the Blackhawks would make the playoffs for the first time in 7 seasons, taking it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where Quenneville was handed his second straight exit by the Red Wings.

The Blackhawks returned the following year, and won their first Central Division championship in 17 years. Going into the playoffs as the third seed, they took it all the way, winning the Stanley Cup in Game Six against Philadelphia, the first for Quenneville as a head coach. The Blackhawks would struggle slightly during the following two years, almost completing a miraculous comeback in 2011 against the Vancouver Canucks, but falling short in Game Seven overtime after battling back from a 3-0 deficit. The next season saw the ‘Hawks lead the division until February, where a disastrous 9-game losing streak had Blackhawks fans calling for Quenneville’s head. He remained, and the Blackhawks lost to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round.

The Blackhawks would return in 2013 for their most successful regular season in their 86-year history, including an unprecedented streak of 24 games with at least a point to start a year. They went wire to wire as the top team in the league, and won the Stanley Cup for the second time in four years, this time against the Boston Bruins.

Quenneville leads all active coaches in wins, and at age 54, he is entering the prime of his coaching career. With a solid lineup in front of him, ‘Coach Q’ could add several more rings to his collection in the next few seasons.

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