The Chicago Blackhawks enter the 2018-19 season with a lot to prove after missing the playoffs, and head coach Joel Quenneville knows that his job could be on the line if the team continues to struggle.
“As a coach, (getting fired) can happen at any moment. That’s all part of our business. It’s the way it goes,” Quenneville said Friday, according to NHL.com. “We’re in the winning business, and as a coach, that’s the only way we think, is winning the next game. The other stuff, we can’t control. We’re fighting to get two points, getting the guys ready to play and playing right. That’s our job, and I can’t think of the other things.”
Quenneville, 59, has two-years and $12 million left on his contract, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. He’s been behind the Blackhawks’ bench since October 2008 and led them to three Stanley Cup titles. But last season, the team posted a 33-39-10 record which put them last in the Central Division.
Once it became clear the Blackhawks were going to miss the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, speculation about Quenneville’s future began to pick up. But on April 5, the Blackhawks confirmed Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman would both be returning for another season.
Bowman’s message on Friday was similar to Quenneville’s. The GM said he’s only focused on winning and can’t let outside criticism affect how he does his job.
“We can’t control what other people are thinking or saying. We just have to stay focused on how we try to improve our team,” Bowman said. “We all want to do well and this is why we do this. We’re part of the Blackhawks because we want to win. Everybody, from the front office to coaches to players, there’s no other thing we want other than to be successful. The expectations are there, and understandably so.
“But it’s not something you sit and talk about or fixate on. Because at the end of the day, when you perform well, that other stuff all takes care of itself.”
So far this off-season, the Blackhawks haven’t made any major additions to their roster. The team signed veteran forward Chris Kunitz and long-time Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, and traded Marian Hossa‘s cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes. But otherwise, the roster remains mostly intact.
The biggest question mark remaining is the health of goaltender Corey Crawford, the player who will arguably have the biggest influence on the Blackhawks’ upcoming season. Crawford last played on Dec. 23 and still says he’s “not 100 per cent yet” while he recovers from an unknown head injury.
Despite Crawford’s status still being unclear, Quenneville said his job is to get the players who can play ready to compete, no matter what adversity gets in their way.
“As a coach, you’re in the winning business. That’s what you’re here for and that’s what you want to do,” he said. “I think everybody has the same motivation to win and the final results are being a playoff team and trying to be champions. That’s where we’re at.”
If any coach can turn the Blackhawks around it’s Quenneville. But the questions about his future won’t go away until that happens.