Sunday, April 26, 2009

Joel Quenneville, Good Coach or Good Timing?

How much better are the Chicago Blackhawks this year? From 10th in the Western Conference to 4th. From missing the playoffs to home ice advantage in the first round. From 88 points to 104 points. No wonder the fans are flocking to the games. And Coach Q is the toast of the town. Ask anyone, read it every where, he turned this team around and put them in the playoff picture this season.


Despite the improvement sited above, it's important to remember that the game of hockey and the battle to the playoffs is a matter of slim margins. Let's re-examine that information. Chicago went from 10th to 4th: but did they get better or did the competition get worse? Nashville, Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas all missed the playoffs this season after making post season appearances last season. All were arguably much worse teams in 2008-09.
Chicago missed the playoffs by a mere 3 points last season.
Chicago posted 104 points this season but only won 6 more games than the 2007-08 effort.

Denis Savard was unceremoniously dumped by the Blackhawks organization only 4 games into the 2008-09 season and replaced by former Colorado Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. Both men surely have benefited from the team's acquisition of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. And many a source said that Savard just wasn't the right guy for the job, great player, bad coach.

If we take that to be fact, then this team was on its way up despite a bad coach. The 2006-07 season garnered 26 wins. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane show up in 2007-08 and the team wins 40 games! So based on Savard being a crummy coach, Toews and Kane are the reason the Blackhawks are a playoff team this season.

But from 2007-08 the team goes from 40 wins to 46 wins this season. Add a few key free agents/trades such as Brian Campbell, Samuel Pahlsson and Cristobal Huet and you have a significantly better team than the one Savard had to work with. But only six more wins.

If you really think Savard was that bad, how do argue that Quenneville is so good? I think Quenneville is the lucky recipient of fortunate timing and competitive goal tending by two good goalies. Oh, you know the goalie issue had to be brought up eventually, didn't you?

Coach Q doesn't "get" goalies. He has shown over and over that he doesn't know how to handle them. Fortunately for Chicago, they ended up with two very good goalies this season. There's no way Quenneville could screw it up! Huet is no slouch and clearly his signing motivated Nikolai Khabibulin into a fantastic performance this year. But Quenneville gets no credit for this, he wasn't even there when any of this went down.

Bottom line, the Blackhawks were already on the upswing and probably could have made the playoffs with me as the head coach. So before you start handing out the Jack Adams award, let's find us a deserving coach, not a benefactor of fortuity.

Posted by: From the Point

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