Joel Quenneville wasn’t the problem, and neither is Jeremy Colliton.
When the Chicago Blackhawks announced Joel Quenneville‘s firing on November 6, the hockey world exploded. No one could understand how one of the best coaches in the history of the National Hockey League, a guy who sits second all-time in wins (890), was suddenly without a job. Only the front office of the Blackhawks was sure of the move.
"“But as we look to a future history not yet defined, we believe the change we made today, will provide the Chicago Blackhawks a critical element in achieving our goals of Championships in the future, including this season.” – Rocky Wirtz on Joel Quenneville’s firing"
What made them so sure Quenneville was the issue with the Blackhawks’ lack of recent success? 2017-2018 was the first season he had a coaching record below .500 in 22 years. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind he’ll be in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday. The firing is still something I can’t wrap my head around and it’s been almost a month since it happened.
Sure, Joel Quenneville had his faults. He had his system and didn’t give a long leash to players who wouldn’t acclimate to this coaching style. That resulted in the dismissal of players that have succeeded elsewhere, but that happens all the time throughout the league. He’s still Joel Quenneville and there may not be a better head coach in the league.
Despite the fact that I wholeheartedly disagree with Quenneville’s firing, I’m still rooting for Jeremy Colliton to succeed. Erik Gustafsson complimented Colliton’s coaching style when he was the head coach for the Rockford Ice Hogs last season in helping him gain confidence.
"“He wanted us up in the rush like Q wants us to join the rush all the time because you have better gap when you come back if you lose the puck and stuff. That helped me a lot. I felt confidence right off the bat when I started in games. It was more like we played like Chicago wanted to. It was not the big difference when I first got the call-up the first year. I think it helped me a lot. I like that play. It’s more like my game plan and how I want to play the game for sure. That helped me for sure.” – Erik Gustafsson via Scott Powers of The Athletic"
Former Blackhawk Vinnie Hinostroza also credited Colliton for helping improve his game in the AHL.
It’s good for the Blackhawks’ brass to have all the faith in the world in a young guy like Colliton. Every article and tweet I’ve read since his hiring has been filled with nothing but compliments about his abilities behind the bench. The Blackhawks seem to believe there’s something truly special about him since they have him signed through the 2020-21 season.
But trying to figure out exactly what you have with a young, up-and-coming coach like Colliton is difficult when your roster is mediocre. The head coach can only do so much with the players he’s given. And what the front office has provided him is a group of defenders who can barely defend, one of the best wingers in the league, a top two-way center, and their band of merry men.
And that’s not on Jeremy Colliton or Joel Quenneville. The roster is on management. It’s their job to fix the team and put together a group of 23 players they believe can be a force in the National Hockey League.
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Overall, the Chicago Blackhawks finished 3-8-2 in the month of November. They are 9-12-5 on the season and 27th in the league. With a tough month of matchups coming up, the Blackhawks will be put to the test once again. Let’s hope for some improvement in their play and more wins in December.