Blackhawks lock up Joel Quenneville through 2019-20 season


Blackhawks lock up Joel Quenneville through 2019-20 season

It wasn’t so much if coach Joel Quenneville’s extension was going to get done. It was when.

Quenneville, coming off his third Stanley Cup in his past six seasons here, still has two years on his current contract. On Tuesday, that expected extension came through.

The Blackhawks signed Quenneville to a three-year extension that will take him through the 2019-20 season. The team did not release financial terms of the deal; Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported the extension could be worth $18 million over those three years.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Yeah, we’re happy,” said Quenneville, who is also one victory away from tying Al Arbour for the second-most coaching victories in NHL history (782). “We’re in a great spot here. It’s been a fun time and we have a fun situation going on here. We’ve having a good stretch here and look forward to try to continue on.”

General manager Stan Bowman talked in the offseason that a Quenneville extension as going to happen at some point.

“I think with any negotiation it takes a little bit of time, but I wouldn't say it was a really drawn-out thing,” he said. “We've got a great situation going here. We're fortunate to have Joel on board and he's been a huge part of what we've accomplished as a group, and there's no one more you'd want on the bench than Joel. So, we're looking for some continuity and we’ve had it here.

“I think it’s a testament to the job Joel's done in today's game,” Bowman continued. “It's tough for coaches to last, and I think certainly because of the accomplishments for the team, led by Joel, is a big part of it. We're excited for what's to come.”

The 57-year-old Quenneville took over the job on Oct. 16, 2008. The Blackhawks had a dynamic young team and the possibility to do something great. Still, there may not have been many who would have projected the Blackhawks to do what they’ve done these past few seasons. The core hasn’t changed much but the Blackhawks have otherwise gone through plenty of salary cap-related alterations. Yet they, and Quenneville, just keep winning.

“In your wildest dreams you wouldn’t have expected what happened to happen,” Quenneville said of when he first took over. “We improved as we were going through that year, got some good educations right off the bat and immediately won. It was a great beginning but [we have] a tremendous group to work with, knowing your leaders have that type of character you hope to have on your team. They send the right message and you couldn’t ask for a better situation to be in as a coach.”

Blackhawks players were happy to hear the news.

“First of all, he definitely deserves it with what he’s done with this franchise. He’s gotten the results and players like to play with him,” said Marian Hossa. “[He gives us] lots of days off; he’s really reasonable. But on the other hand he expects things. We’re happy for him and his new deal. I think it’s great for the city.”

[MORE - Marian Hossa relieved to snap scoring slump]

Trevor van Riemsdyk, who entered last training camp relatively unknown and earned a job on the starting lineup, agreed.

“I’ve only been here a short period of time but you see instantaneously why he’s such a great coach and why he’s been so successful,” he said. “I’ll be forever grateful for that chance to play right away. He had nothing but positive things to say and it meant a lot, especially coming from someone like coach Q who’s been through so much, coached so many players and has been so successful. I’m really happy for him.”

Quenneville has had some great coaching seasons, especially here in Chicago. Will he ever catch Scotty Bowman’s record of 1,244 all-time coaching victories? As Quenneville said with a grin, “it’s a stretch.” Quenneville isn’t much for looking too far down the path anyway. Right now, life and coaching is good. So is the added few years of security.

“I felt fortunate when I started that I’ve been around really good players, teams and situations, and none better than here in Chicago,” he said. “I’ve been some healthy situations where we’ve had success. It makes the job that much more enjoyable. There are always some tough situations over the course of the years but for the most part, it’s gone by extremely quick an that’s why it’s been so much fun.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.