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


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.”

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.