Joel Quenneville

Blackhawks 2018-19 midseason grades: Coaching

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks 2018-19 midseason grades: Coaching

After three Stanley Cups and 10-plus seasons with the Blackhawks, Joel Quenneville was relieved of his head coaching duties on Nov. 6, 2018 that signaled the end of an era nobody in Chicago will ever forget. 

As his replacement, the Blackhawks handed the keys to 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton, who had no previous coaching experience in the NHL but had been a head coach in Sweden for four years and then again for the Rockford IceHogs for a year. 

Colliton's top priority when he took over the team was to fix a power play that had been near the basement in the NHL. It took some time and patience, but it has turned into a lethal weapon for the Blackhawks.

Since Dec. 18, no team has been better on the power play than the Blackhawks, who are 19-for-48 for a conversion rate of 39.6 percent. It ranks eighth overall at 23.3 percent since he took over on Nov. 6. He can check that box off.

The penalty kill, on the other hand, remains a work in progress. It ranks dead-last this season at 74.1 percent and hasn't gotten any better under Colliton. 

At 5-on-5, the Blackhawks have a minus-18 goal differential since he took over, which ranks 28th. That's certainly an area they need to improve in also.

The one thing that hasn't been a problem this season is the Blackhawks' compete level. They've been in a bunch of close games, but don't have the personnel to get over the hump because they're relying too heavily on their top guns.

They're bought in to what Colliton is selling and have adjusted to the adjustments in the system he has installed. But the head coach isn't satisfied with where they're at, and that's what ultimately matters.

"I would like to be better," Colliton said. "I think I can do better and I will do better. We're not where we want to be. Told the guys a few times, as a staff, we're going to be relentless in trying to improve because we want to be at the top of the league, not where we are."

Grade: B

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Joel Quenneville is having himself a good ol' time at Soldier Field tonight

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@RedLineRadio

Joel Quenneville is having himself a good ol' time at Soldier Field tonight

Joel Quenneville has a little more time on his hands these days, and he's using it in the best way possible: tailgating with Bears fans.

Someone caught some video of Quenneville taking part in the pre-game festivities, and it's just as terrific as you'd imagine: 

When you hear the platitude about city sports legends never having to buy a drink ever again, this is what they're talking about. 

Bears by 100. 

In replacing future Hall of Famer with inexperienced head coach, pressure is on Stan Bowman to help the Blackhawks re-win

In replacing future Hall of Famer with inexperienced head coach, pressure is on Stan Bowman to help the Blackhawks re-win

The Blackhawks made arguably the toughest decision in franchise history on Tuesday to part ways with the best coach that has ever walked through their doors in Joel Quenneville, who also just might be the greatest coach in Chicago sports history.

After 11 seasons in Chicago that resulted in three Stanley Cups, the Blackhawks felt it was time for a change. Out goes the second-winningest coach in NHL history and in comes a 33-year-old with zero NHL coaching experience.

It's a significant changing of the guard behind the bench and essentially means one thing: Stan Bowman got his guy in Jeremy Colliton and now it's time to see what decisions he makes going forward with a head coach that better aligns with his views philosophically.

"This is the first head coach that Stan Bowman has hired and I'm excited about that," said Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough. "Stan has been very high on Jeremy for a long time and I'm anxious to see how this is going to play out." 

Hockey insiders expected the Blackhawks to be aggressive this past offseason via free agency, but it was quite the opposite. They entered the season with more than $5 million in unused cap space and were reluctant to add a third year to any deal, settling for veteran role players. Perhaps part of that was because of the uncertainty of this season and not wanting to tie up a large amount of money to one particular player if things went sideways again or it ultimately resulted in an early season coaching change, which it did, and didn't exactly fit the new coach's playing style. If that's the case, then Quenneville was set up to fail from the beginning.

But now that the decision has been made, the pressure really shifts to Bowman because he's going to be the one held most responsible for the product on the ice and not what the head coach isn't getting out of the group. With Quenneville as the coach, there were too many instances where the Blackhawks tried fitting a square peg into a round hole with newly-acquired or signed players (Trevor Daley and Michal Kempny, to name a few) and nobody wins in that situation.

In hand-picking his head coach, that's no longer an issue for Bowman. With that being said, how is he going to utilize the cap space in both the short- and long-term? How much extra flexibility does this give him in trade talks knowing his future acquisitions or signings is tailored to the way he and his new head coach want to play?

One thing is for certain: Bowman's moves from here on out will be viewed under a microscope, if they haven't been already. The Blackhawks still have playoff aspirations, labeling it as a "remodeling" period rather than "rebuilding."

But it's in Bowman's hands to help the Blackhawks re-win.

"We’re all accountable for this," Bowman said. "This is not just on one person or just on Joel or the other coaches. We all play a role in this and we have to get better, so my role in this arrangement is not just simply finding players. That’s part of my role. My role is interacting with our coaches and helping collaborate to help out team improve. Certainly, part of that is player acquisition of player movement.  

"We’re on the outlook. If we can upgrade our team in any way, we’re going to pursue that."

The clock has started to tick.