Denis Savard

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.”  

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 3: Denis Savard out, Joel Quenneville in

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 3: Denis Savard out, Joel Quenneville in

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews having established themselves as two of the game's rising superstars during their rookie year, it was clear the Blackhawks were ready to take the next step into playoff contention. But after starting the 2008-09 season with a 1-2-1 record, the Blackhawks made a change behind the bench.

Joel Quenneville was promoted to head coach one month after being hired as a Chicago pro scout and Denis Savard was relieved of his duties in an effort to bring in a more experienced voice to lead the charge.

"We've got an extremely entertaining, exciting team with great youth and great prospects for success," Quenneville said at his introductory press conference in October of 2008. "I'm looking forward to fulfilling all our objectives of being a top team and winning hockey games, and getting to the playoffs and going from there."

The Blackhawks went on to snap a five-year playoff drought and finished the season with 104 points, their highest point total in 15 years, and reached the Conference Finals before falling to the Detroit Red Wings in five games.

While it may have been difficult to part ways with one of the Blackhawks' all-time greatest players, it turned out to be one of the best decisions the franchise has ever made with Quenneville coaching the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in six years and Savard being a part of the ride as well after he was brought back on as a team ambassador.

Quenneville has compiled a 446-243-93 record in 782 games for a win percentage of .630, along with 128 playoff wins, in 10 seasons with the Blackhawks. He also moved into second on the all-time wins list with 884, trailing only Scotty Bowman (1,244).

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby Hull, Jeremy Roenick highlight former players at 2018 Blackhawks Convention

The Blackhawks will host a sizable group of alumni at the 11th annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

Eddie Olczyk, Bobby and Dennis Hull, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios are some of the former players highlighting the event, starting on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. on NBC Chicago’s “Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies.”

Blackhawks broadcaster Olczyk, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs game Tuesday night in anticipation of the convention. The 1994 Stanley Cup winner announced he was cancer-free in March, making his appearance even more special.

Roenick, a Blackhawks all-time top 10 goal scorer (267) and points leader (596), will take part in the weekend for the first time.

“I think early that maybe the relationship wasn’t strong enough,” Roenick said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. “… And I think going to the convention is so important to the city and so important to the franchise in terms of what they do for people in the city.”

Chelios will be introduced as the newest team ambassador this weekend. The Blackhawks announced Monday morning that the Hall of Fame defenseman is once again a member of the organization.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said about his new position. “… Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

The list of past Blackhawks players who will also be present includes Bryan Bickell, Adam Burish, Brian Campbell, Eric Daze, Ben Eager, Tony Esposito, Colin Fraser, Stu Grimson, Steve Larmer, Jamal Mayers, Troy Murray, Bernie Nicholls, Phil Russell and Patrick Sharp.

John Scott, the controversial NHL All-Star who had only registered one point with the Arizona Coyotes leading up to his fan vote selection during the 2015-16 season, will also be a fun player in attendance. He only notched two points in 69 games with Chicago.

The present players and staff members attending the gathering feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and head coach Joel Quenneville, among others.

According to the Blackhawks, fans can interact with these ex-members, current players, coaches and team executives through activities like autograph and photo sessions.