With the second-winningest coach in NHL history now out of work, and no indication he’s done, you have to wonder how many teams out there are considering their options right now.
There were one or two hot seats prior to the Quenneville news on Tuesday, namely Mike Yeo with the St. Louis Blues, but the speculation about Quenneville’s future has expanded to include teams whose coaches may otherwise have been safe (or at least, safe-ish) prior to Chicago’s decision to let Quenneville go. Why? The guys on Hockey Central at Noon described it best:
Because… Joel Quenneville.
With one season after this left on his contract, at a cost of $6 million, a team will have to pay top dollar to bring Quenneville aboard and likely have to give him some good tenure for job security, too. It’s not unprecedented for a team sitting high in the standings to let go of its coach in order to pounce on a recently dismissed one that they see as a perfect fit for the organization.
In February of 2017 the Boston Bruins fired Claude Julien. One week later the Habs fired Michel Therrien and hired Julien as his replacement despite sitting atop the Atlantic Division with a 31-19-8 record. Granted they were there on the strength of a 13-1-1 start that cooled considerably, but had it not been Julien specifically who was available, it’s easy to see Montreal continuing on with Therrien at that time.
So if a team wants Quenneville, who was completely unattainable just four days ago, they may feel emboldened to do something unconventional.
Here is a look at some potential landing spots for Quenneville, with a quick breakdown of why they may, and may not, make the move.
DETROIT RED WINGS
Why it makes sense: It may be a while before the Red Wings contend for the Stanley Cup again — but they’re well on their way to contending for the first overall pick. It wouldn’t hurt having the guy who led a very young Hawks team to its first Stanley Cup since the 1960s just three years after drafting Patrick Kane first overall leading the charge behind the bench. The players love Quenneville and he’s been successful at every stop — he never missed the playoffs in seven full seasons with the Blues and he made it past the first round of the playoffs in two of three seasons with Colorado. New building, new core, new coach — new era in Detroit?
Why it doesn’t make sense: “They got a new building, but also have Dan Bylsma already on the bench and the suspicion is if they’re going to make a move with Blashill it’s going to go right to Bylsma,” Jeff Marek said on Hockey Central at Noon.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Why it makes sense: “If a team like Columbus, who could be looking at losing Panarin and Bobrovsky this year, start to fall, thinking they’re going to go for it this year and keep these two guys, do they make a move even though everyone there has already been re-upped?” Marek asked. It’s true that this could be an all-in scenario for Columbus and if that means spending big to bring in Quenneville, it may be worth considering. Plus, he has a relationship with Panarin, whom he coached one year in Chicago and didn’t want to trade away, so maybe he can help keep the superstar around?
Why it doesn’t make sense: Head coach John Tortorella just signed a two-year extension on Sept. 12 so not only would the Blue Jackets have to pay top dollar for their new hire, they’d also have to pay Tortorella a pretty penny through the 2020-21 season. That may not be something this small market team wishes to do and it’s not as though they’re playing poorly: despite another slow October from Bobrovsky, the Jackets are 8-6-1 and sit third in the Metro Division — though neither of their special teams units have performed well.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Why it makes sense: Speaking of all-in, the Blues made a big trade in the summer to bring in Ryan O’Reilly and signed Tyler Bozak with the idea they’d return in 2018-19 with a solid 1-2-3 down the middle and be able to challenge coming out of the tough Central. It hasn’t quite worked out that way as the Blues have coughed up leads on the regular and are just two points out of the West’s basement. GM Doug Armstrong has already made one coaching change and has been with the Blues since 2010, over which time they’ve won four playoff rounds in six appearances. Is he under the gun to show progress? Head coach Mike Yeo was already on the hot seat prior to the Quenneville news.
“Anybody in that management team, Doug Armstrong, ownership, how are you not having that discussion right now?” asked Kypreos.
Why it doesn’t make sense: There aren’t a ton of reasons why this wouldn’t make sense, though Yeo was first brought to the Blues as an assistant under Ken Hitchcock with the commitment that he’d take over when Hitchcock moved on. This is just Yeo’s second full season behind the bench, so it would mean a rapid gear shift. Quenneville has already coached eight years with the Blues, would he go back?
Why it makes sense: The only reason the Ducks aren’t easily the worst team in the NHL right now is John Gibson’s stellar play. They average allowing 36.5 shots against per game, and their average -11 shot differential per game is the worst mark in the league. They are lapped at 5-on-5 nightly and it’s far too easy to get the puck into the middle of the ice against them. Randy Carlyle is in the final year of his contract and GM Bob Murray spoke last summer about the need for his team to play quicker. It hasn’t happened yet. Murray has also fired Carlyle in-season once before, cutting him loose after a 7-13-4 start in 2011-12.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Sure, the Ducks’ numbers have been terrible so far, but they’ve faced a ton of injuries. Ryan Getzlaf has been in and out, Patrick Eaves just returned for the first time in a year, Ondrej Kase has been out all season with a concussion, Corey Perry won’t be back for a while, Nick Ritchie held out the start of the season for a new contract and immediately got hurt after signing one, Josh Manson is out and Max Comtois, after a superb start to his NHL career, is now sidelined himself. You could argue that Carlyle hasn’t been given a fair shake this season.
Why it makes sense: Think about it — Quenneville will be getting paid through next season anyway and by the time the paychecks stop coming from the Blackhawks, the new Seattle team would likely be ready to hit the ice. They will already be under pressure and face unrealistic expectations to do something that rivals Vegas’ first year in the league, so hiring the best coach on the market today is a good place to start.
Why it doesn’t make sense: “The only thing though you have to keep in mind is Dave Tippett is a consultant there and Dave Tippett and Joel Quenneville are best friends. My understanding is Dave Tippett loves coaching and wants to continue loving coaching,” Kypreos said.
Why it makes sense: Would you believe Dave Hakstol is the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL right now? Hired on May 18, 2015 Hakstol is only exceeded by the coaches in Tampa Bay, Nashville and Winnipeg in how long he’s been on the job, but he hasn’t had the same regular- or post-season success. The Flyers have made the playoffs in two of Hakstol’s three seasons, but have a 4-8 record. They are 8-7-1 so far this season, which puts them on the outside of the playoffs looking at the moment. Just a couple weeks ago GM Ron Hextall said he wanted to be patient with his team, but after they went on to win just one of their next five games the tone changed.
“You look at our team on paper, and we’ve got a pretty good team,” Hextall said towards the end of October. “But paper doesn’t mean a whole lot. We need to play better.”
Why it doesn’t make sense: The Flyers responded to Hextall’s comments by winning three of four games on their Western road trip and getting a point via overtime loss in the other. So now especially would be a strange time for the patient GM (how weird is that to say about Hextall) to let go of the coach he targeted hiring in the first place. The Flyers have a favourable schedule ahead, too, with five home games in a row — four of which come against teams currently outside of a playoff spot. They started off the stretch with a 5-4 win over Arizona on Thursday.
Why it makes sense: When Mike Babcock became available from Detroit a few years ago the Sabres were one of the teams making a hard push for him. At one point, in fact, they were viewed as a favourite to land him. The Pegulas have spent a lot of money over their years as owners of the team so it’s reasonable to think they might take another big, expensive cut to hire a respected coach at a crucial juncture in the team’s development.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Phil Housley is a Hall of Fame player and celebrated former Sabre who is in just his second season behind the bench. And the team is showing signs of progress this season, with an 8-6-2 record. The Sabres had the worst offence last season and are the only team that hasn’t scored 200 goals in any of the past five years — so far in 2018-19 their offence ranks 20th. That’s not great, but it is an improvement. The defence has also moderately improved, allowing 1.5 fewer shots per game than last season as the rest of the league’s average has risen.