Blackhawks

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”  

'Big opportunity for us': Blackhawks know importance of what's at stake this weekend

'Big opportunity for us': Blackhawks know importance of what's at stake this weekend

Every game is crucial at this time of year. But there's no downplaying the importance of this weekend for the Blackhawks.

It starts Friday night at the United Center, where the Blackhawks will take on the Colorado Avalanche. And the winner will move into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. No biggie.

"Absolutely," Jonathan Toews said on whether there's extra motivation. "I think we knew earlier in the season that games are important start to finish throughout the regular season because you're going to find yourself in a tight spot at some point. And here we are with 20 games or so left and we're going head-to-head with division teams that are basically in the same place trying to make the playoffs. So we know it's definitely a big one."

It's even more important for the Blackhawks because the Avalanche have a game in hand. So if the Blackhawks are on the losing end of a potential four-point swing, it changes the landscape in a fairly significant way and they're back to being a couple games back.

"Oh yeah, they’re big,' coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s fun. Been working for a couple of months here to be in games like this. Going to enjoy it, enjoy the battle, should be a fun atmosphere."

After Friday, the Blackhawks have to get right back to work and prepare for the Dallas Stars on Sunday because there's added meaning in that game, too.

The Stars currently own the first spot in the West, and the Blackhawks could pull within two points of them by Sunday — although the Stars have two games in hand, and host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. That's a pair of consecutive four-point games on the line, which could help propel the Blackhawks above the playoff line.

"Every game is big," Patrick Kane said. "When you get a chance to play a team that you're chasing and make sure they're not putting up anything as far as points-wise in the standings, that's a big opportunity for us. We know how big these games are this weekend but I think that's just going to be the way it is down the stretch. Pretty much every game is going to be huge for us. Be nice to have a big weekend here and see where we're at."

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West

Mark Carman and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Duke and the worst teams in the NBA breathe a big sigh of relief after Zion Williamson suffers just a Grade 1 knee sprain. After dodging this bullet, should Zion shut it down and prepare for the draft?

7:00- After seeing what happened to Zion, there have been more calls for the NCAA to pay players more than just tuition. Will it ever happen?

10:00- The Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West. Does Stan Bowman need to make a big trade before Monday's deadline?

12:30- Manny Machado is a San Diego Padres. Patrick Finley is huge Padres fan. He gives his reaction to the big free agent signing.

16:00- WGCI's Leon Rogers joins the guys on the panel to talk about Zion's injury, the Bears offseason plans. They also discuss the controversial finish in the Georgia-Mississippi State game when a stuffed animal decided the outcome.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

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