Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Man who gave Quenneville first coaching job saw great potential

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Blackhawks: Man who gave Quenneville first coaching job saw great potential

It was 1991 and the Toronto Maple Leafs had just moved their minor-league squad to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The team needed coaches, and Marc Crawford would get the head coach’s job. As for the assistant coach, Cliff Fletcher, Maple Leafs’ general manager at the time, had something specific in mind.

“We were looking for someone who would basically start off as coaching but at the same time end his playing career, where he could help the younger players, particularly the younger defensemen develop,” Fletcher recalled. “More importantly, he would have his introductory session into the coaching field.”

Fletcher knew the perfect man for the job: Joel Quenneville.

Twenty-five years, 783 victories and three Stanley Cups after accepting that player/coach job with St. John’s, Quenneville is among the NHL’s all-time great head coaches. He passed Al Arbour for the second-most coaching victories on Thursday night, when the Blackhawks beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. For Fletcher, currently a consultant for the Maple Leafs, the similarities between Quenneville and Arbour extend past their victory total.

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“The gentleman he tied [Tuesday] night was basically the same thing: a defenseman who was up and down between the NHL and AHL, was a student of the game,” Fletcher said. “[Joel] was by no stretch of the imagination an All-Star defenseman but he was a steady defenseman and an NHL player, for sure. He had to pay a big price to stay in the NHL, to be a good player and he really studied the game.”

Quenneville spent most of his playing career with the Hartford Whalers (1983-1990). Several players from those Hartford teams would continue their NHL careers in coaching or management. At the time, however, there was one guy Ray Ferraro couldn’t imagine being behind the bench.

“If you would’ve asked me at that time who would’ve been a coach, I would’ve said Brent Peterson, Doug Jarvis and Dave Tippett,” Ferraro said. “And Joel, he just wasn’t a loud, vocal guy which, when I see him behind the bench, that’s always a bit of a giggle for me on how emotional he is.”

Tippett, head coach of the Arizona Coyotes, said there was something about Quenneville that made him future coaching material.

“All those guys you just mentioned, we had the old penalty-kill meetings – this was before we had assistant coaches – and Joel was always in the middle of that,” Tippett said. “He had a coach’s mindset from the start.”

But Tippett and Ferraro, both still good friends of Quenneville’s, agree Quenneville is a student of the game and someone who’s always thinking about the game.

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“Even when you talk to him, his brain is going a million miles an hour,” Ferraro said. “I’m always interested in what Joel is doing. Part of it is because I consider him a friend and he’s just a fabulous guy. And the other part is I’m really intrigued as a coach what he does. Look at how he’s moved wingers up and down and scrapes bottom defensemen together. He can just see things very clearly.”

Quenneville has come a long way from his AHL coaching start. He’s coming off his third Cup triumph as a head coach – he has another one as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche. He’s now signed with the Blackhawks through 2019-20. Fletcher saw something in Quenneville that made him think Quenneville could be a good coach. He’s now one of the great ones.

“We thought that it was an easy decision to offer him an opportunity. We were thankful he accepted it,” Fletcher said. “When you look back to 1991, 25 years ago, and now being tied as the second winningest coach in the history of the NHL and soon to be second winningest with many years left if he chooses to, he’s had one hell of a career.”

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.