Ex-Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is over it when it comes to facing old team
After all the theatrics when Coach Q returned to the United Center last month, he’s moving on and looking at the Hawks as nothing more than the next team on the schedule.
SUNRISE, Fla. — Once Panthers coach Joel Quenneville got past his emotional return to the United Center last month, his second game against his former team felt rather ordinary.
There was minimal, if any, spike in his attention as he scouted Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading up to the Blackhawks’ 3-2 shootout victory Saturday, and it seemed like just another date on the schedule. He made it absolutely clear playing against the Hawks won’t have any additional significance for him going forward.
‘‘We’re looking at it like it’s one of our games we have to win, and it’s an opponent,’’ Quenneville said when he was asked whether facing the Hawks meant anything to him. ‘‘Whether it’s Toronto or Chicago, it’s a huge game for us.’’
Quenneville, who was fired by the Hawks in November 2018, got a measure of revenge with a 4-3 victory against them last month at the United Center.
In his first season with the Panthers, he had them at 28-16-5 after knocking off the Hawks. Since then, they’ve tumbled out of the playoff field. The Panthers are in a 5-9-2 rut after Saturday and sit three points behind the Blue Jackets for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Beyond the players Quenneville coached with the Hawks, the game was a reunion for him and replacement Jeremy Colliton, too. Colliton was never on the Hawks’ staff with Quenneville, but he got occasional opportunities to watch him up close during his season and a half coaching Rockford of the American Hockey League.
‘‘He treated me as good as anyone could hope,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘I enjoyed being around him and just tried to observe and see how he ran his team and how he ran his meetings and all those things. You just try to pick up as much as you can. Why wouldn’t you, with the results he’s had over time and over a long period?’’
While the Hawks are looking for a way to climb back into playoff contention, the Panthers still are scrapping for a spot, too.
Quenneville got the Hawks to the playoffs in eight of his nine full seasons with them and guided them to three Stanley Cup titles, but he hasn’t been to the postseason since the Hawks were swept in the first round by the Predators in 2017.
The Panthers, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2016, hired him hoping he could make them relevant again. There’s nothing he wants more than to make that happen this season.
‘‘In the worst way,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘I know that’s what it’s all about. . . . But as an underdog right now, that’s how we’ve got to look at it and find ways to chip away and put ourselves back in the mix.’’