Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Joel Quenneville May Have Lost Locker Room

By Aaron Goldschmidt
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 21: Head coach Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on from the bench during a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 21, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 21: Head coach Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on from the bench during a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 21, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks seem to have all the pieces of a Stanley Cup contender, but their recent performances suggest motivation may be the problem

It was a beautiful spectacle surveying the Pepsi Center on Saturday night before the Chicago Blackhawks-Colorado Avalanche game.  It was as if a sea of red blanketed more than half the stadium.  There were a lot of different ‘Hawks jerseys, but one that stood out was a No. 50 that read FKN RT CHI.

Both the ‘Hawks and Avs were coming off losses from the previous night, but the Avs were playing after an especially big one, being obliterated by the Golden Knights 7-0 in Vegas.  Jonathan Bernier dressed against the Blackhawks’ Anton Forsberg, who was still looking for his first win of the season.

Right from the puck drop, Blackhawks Nation brought the Madhouse to Denver, but the Blackhawks’ legs were still visibility dizzy from their previous bout with Nashville.  The Avalanche’s speed seemed like it was too much for the ‘Hawks, who chased the puck for most of the first period.

After a literal avalanche of goals from Colorado, the Blackhawks found themselves down 5-0 and pulled Forsberg.  They battled back but ultimately lost 6-3 and once again produced too little too late.

Predicting the future

A couple days before the game, I jumped on the Talkin’ Hawks podcast with a couple buddies from Denver, and we discussed the current state of the ‘Hawks.  We debated the usual topics like the IceHogs, Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy, but when it came to prediction time I wasn’t going to lie.  I thought the Blackhawks were going to get blown out by the Avalanche.

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It’s not that I thought the ‘Hawks couldn’t beat the Avs, I just knew they would let their guard down in a back-to-back against a speedy team like the Avalanche.  I saw a combination of a piss-poor powerplay, a soft defense and a nonexistent checking line that led me to my predication.  And when we all went to the game together and watched the Avs shower the Blackhawks with goals, it hurt to see my team play without heart.

Others may respond to my last comment saying it’s just one bad game, and indeed it is.  But when your fourth-liners are the only ones finishing checks and nobody is making any adjustments to try to motivate the team, you have to wonder what is going on in the locker room.  Are they just being lazy?  Is it complacency?  Is it elitism?

It’s hard to make the argument that the Blackhawks just aren’t good enough to compete, because that’s simply not true.  The Blackhawks turned it on during the second and third periods, possessing the puck for minutes at a time in the Avs zone.  They have shown that they can compete with great teams, but seemingly only when they want to.

So the question has to be asked.  After 10 years, has Joel Quenneville lost the locker room?

Talking about Q

It was discussed on Twitter over the summer that if Q got off to a poor start to the first half of the season that the Blackhawks should move on from him.  This is a very sensitive subject because of his history and success with the Blackhawks, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

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General manger Stan Bowman made it crystal clear at the end of last year that the Blackhawks are not a first-round exit kind of team, and he vowed they would be better.  But watching the ‘Hawks get outworked by opponents is probably not the direction Bowman thought his team would be going in.

You also have to ask yourself if there is a better replacement for Quenneville. Can one of the assistants become an interim coach and get this team back on track?  It’s hard to tell, and even harder to fire probably the best guy for the job.  If Quenneville wanted another head coaching position, there would be GMs lining up at his front door the minute the ‘Hawks said goodbye.

Or maybe the Blackhawks make Quenneville the next Dennis Savard.  Maybe they move Q up to the front office into player personnel or operations to keep him in town as an adviser.  It’s hard to process, but it just seems like desperate times call for desperate measures.

After getting home from the game Saturday night, I watched Jonathan Toews‘ postgame interview.  He brushed off the bad game saying the team needs to continue focusing on the big picture.  I think the reality is that the Chicago Blackhawks just aren’t talented enough to persevere anymore.

They can’t rely on players like Niklas Hjalmarsson to get in front of a key scoring chance, or Marian Hossa to score a much needed goal when the team needs some life.  These aren’t the ‘Hawks of old.  We’re watching a team that has not adjusted to the speed and talent of the new NHL.

I’m not panicking because the Blackhawks lost one bad game.  I’m panicking because they are getting beat at the fundamentals of the game.  As fans of the ‘Hawks, we’ve been spoiled with a lot of talented stars, but also phenomenal depth players.  Now that those depth players have come and gone, the ‘Hawks are left exposed with too many skilled forwards and an inexperienced defense.

Next: Blackhawks' Line Changes Fail To Improve Offense

The Blackhawks need a kickstart, and maybe that comes in the form of somebody who can get them to play a 60-minute game and get their hands dirty.

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