Preps Talk

Relax, Coach Q confirms he's staying with Blackhawks

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Relax, Coach Q confirms he's staying with Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville said it was never a question, even though there was plenty of speculation. Hes happy being the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, and he plans to be here for a while.

Quenneville shot down rumors of going to the Montreal Canadiens during a conference call on Tuesday, stating that leaving Chicago was the last thing I was thinking about.

Over the last few days theres been speculation about other things going on and me being somewhere else. First and foremost, Im excited about being here, said Quenneville, who let assistant coach Mike Haviland go earlier in the day. I love the opportunity and the organization (here in Chicago), and thats something I want to put to bed right now.

Speculation arose after a Hockey Night in Canada Hotstove piece came out on Sunday night. In the segment, analysts said Quenneville would be a good fit for the Canadiens and new general manager Marc Bergevin, the Blackhawks former assistant GM and good friend of Quennevilles. They talked of a rift between upper management and Quenneville and that the coach would be perfect for the Canadiens.

But Quenneville said hes ensconced in Chicago.

Im very happy here and thats the last thing I was thinking about, Quenneville said. Im happy for Bergi that he got the job. Hell do a great job there and hell give the organization some life. I wish him the best. Other than that, thats where Im at.

There had been some issues between the two camps for the Blackhawks this season. There was speculation of a power struggle when Barry Smith, the Blackhawks director of player development and longtime former assistant coach to Scotty Bowman, began helping the power play during team practices. Smith was no longer on the ice come playoff time. At the end-of-season media day, general manager Stan Bowman said the power play was more of a coaching thing than anything. There are a lot of different ways to run a power play and for some reason ours didnt work.

But in that same session Bowman said he and Quenneville had a good relationship: "Joel did a great job. Its a testament to his track record as a coach to weather the storm in tough times. Our team came out of that (nine-game winless) stretch, and we played great hockey toward the end of the year. We see things very similarly.

If it was a question of power, it sounds like Quenneville now has it when it comes to his coaching staff. Quenneville said the decision to fire Haviland Tuesday was his.

"(Stan) did offer me the opportunity for the first time since I've been here -- if I needed to make changes to our coaching staff -- to look at it and have the opportunity to make a coaching change or all the necessary changes that were there. I think the timing was where I felt like a change was necessary and going forward.

And as Quenneville goes forward with the Blackhawks, he also looked at his own coaching. He said hes learning a lot just watching the rest of the playoffs.

"I took a look back at the situation and I had my own reflection on the job I did. I watch other playoff games, I know there is areas where I can be a better coach, said Quenneville, who added that he could do a better job of delegating ice time to players. At the same time, I had an assessment that there is some dysfunction to our coaching staff and we need a change.

Theres been a change on the Blackhawks coaching staff. But it looks like Quenneville will be leading it for some time.

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Rich Central

Head coach: Terrell Alexander

Assistant Coaches: Quincy Woods (OC), Vince Brown (OL), Art Schuldt (ST), Les Hampton (DB), Jerrell Bibbs (DB), Steve Henley (DC), Jeff Spikner (WR), Derrick Goard (LB) William Pass (DL) Chuch Robinson (Skills), Guy Smith (RB) and Shawn Mitchell (Skills)

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-1 Southland Conference). Rich Central made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Olympians defeated Marion then lost to Dunlap in second round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hillcrest

Sept. 1 vs Lemont

Sept. 7 @ Kaneland

Sept. 14 vs Rich South

Sept. 21 @ Crete-Monee

Sept. 28 vs Rich East

Oct. 5 vs Kankakee

Oct. 12 vs Bloom Township

Oct. 19 vs Christ the King

[MORE: 67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest]

Biggest storyline: The Olympians have reached the IHSA playoffs three consecutive seasons-- the first such streak in Rich Central history. Can they stay on a winning track and make a deeper playoff run this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR/S Mehki Miller (Miami of Ohio) and RB Sean Tyler (Western Michigan)

Biggest holes to fill: The Olympians will need to replace their entire starting offensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Rich Central and head coach Terrell Alexander has brought winning and stability to the Olympians football program.  The 2018 team has some firepower back in the aforementioned Miller and Tyler; however, the development of their underclassmen group this summer will determine just how far this team will go. The ingredients look to be there for another IHSA state playoff caliber team.

Maurice Jones-Drew ranks Jordan Howard in NFL's top-10 RBs

Maurice Jones-Drew ranks Jordan Howard in NFL's top-10 RBs

Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard is entering an interesting season. He has just as good a chance of leading the NFL in rushing as he appears to have at losing reps to Tarik Cohen, a player some analysts feel is a better fit for coach Matt Nagy's system.

It's unfortunate that Howard isn't receiving the kind of praise a player like him deserves. He set the Bears' rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016. In 2017, he became the first running back in franchise history to start a career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Howard's production suggests he should be the feature back in Chicago's ground game. In fact, according to NFL Network's Maurice Jones-Drew, it's a no-brainer. He recently ranked Howard in the NFL's top-10 running backs.

7. Jordan Howard (Bears)

Even with the plethora of offensive weapons thanks to some offseason additions, the Bears' offense still must run through Howard. After rushing for at least 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons, Howard will be a key piece for first-year head coach Matt Nagy and will have to carry Chicago late in the season if the squad is going to make a playoff push.

Howard will be given every chance to prove he can thrive in Nagy's system early in the season. If he can prove reliable as a receiver, he could match Kareem Hunt's league-leading 1,327 yards last season. He'll have to be effective as a pass-catcher to keep Cohen from threatening for more touches.

Howard deserves this kind of respect for what he's done through two seasons as a pro. He may not be in the NFL's elite class just yet, but if he surpasses 1,200-plus rushing yards and threatens for 10 or more touchdowns again, it'll be an undeniable fact that Howard is a true franchise back.