Blackhawks facing the age-old question: When do you move on from your coach?
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville could be in danger of losing his job, which probably strikes many of you as the height of ridiculousness. Who in his right mind would fire a guy who has won three Stanley Cups in 10 seasons with the organization?
It’s an excellent question. It also could be the wrong question right now.
No matter how ludicrous it might be, at some point almost every franchise ends up asking the same thing: When do you move on from your coach?
The Hawks should keep Quenneville based on what he has done and what he’s capable of doing. The team’s talent level isn’t what it was several years ago. If you want to make the argument that he’s not good at bringing along young players, go ahead. But it’s not his fault that the Hawks have tumbled in the standings this season.
If you’ve been paying attention the past 1,000 years or so, you know that coach firings don’t always have to do with fault.
Sometimes change is necessary, even when change might seem unwarranted. If a coach’s message gets old, his players might as well be wearing earplugs. I don’t know if that’s the case with Quenneville and his troops. I do know that this will be his first losing season in 21 seasons as an NHL head coach. Yet the only thing that matters is whether Hawks vice president Stan Bowman believes his coach is still effective.
The first great truth in sports is that coaches are hired to be fired. The second great truth is that a VP or general manager almost always outlasts the coach. It’s the way things are structured. If you’re wondering why Quenneville, and not Bowman, could be shown the door in the next 10 days, it’s because owners have set it up hierarchically for someone else to do the dirty work of canning coaches. That’s one of the reasons it’s better to be a GM than a coach.
There are no lifetime jobs for coaches. Mike Ditka won a Super Bowl as the Bears coach. He owned the town – still owns the town – but he was as disposable as doctor’s gloves when things went sour with ownership.
Whatever love you might have for Cubs manager Joe Maddon for winning a World Series, don’t fall into the trap of thinking he’s Manager for Life. There aren’t even any guarantees that he’ll get a contract extension (he’s signed through 2019), even though the Cubs have been to three straight National League Championship Series.
The organization likely will sign him to a new deal, but his look-at-me antics haven’t sat well with everyone. And if the Cubs inexplicably fall apart this season after signing ace Yu Darvish in the offseason? Team president Theo Epstein might have a sentimental bone or two in his body, but he doesn’t have a skeleton full of them.
In some ways, this harks back to the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen. After winning the World Series in 2005, Guillen looked like he would be the franchise’s manager for eons. But he was boisterous and given to the occasional outrageous comment. He and then-general manager Ken Williams began feuding, and, as mentioned above, a coach rarely wins that battle. Guillen and the Sox parted ways after the 2011 season.
Maddon doesn’t have Guillen’s brash personality, but what he lacks in outlandishness, he makes up for in odd in-game decisions, painful excuses and T-shirts.
The job status of every coach everywhere is up for discussion. It’s not always fair, but it’s the nature of the beast. Owners and GMs can scoff all they want when fans and media debate whether a coach should be fired, but you can bet they’re having the same thoughts and conversations.
There’s not a coach I can think of who is completely safe. I could even make a case for the Patriots, despite all their Super Bowl titles, getting tired of Bill Belichick’s eternal frown. Every coach has a shelf life.
It’s why Porter Moser should make the most of Loyola’s run to the Final Four, whether that’s in a new contract or a new job. It works both ways: Is Moser a better coach today than when the season began? Probably not. And he won’t be as bad as he’ll be made out to be the next time he gets fired. And he will get fired if he continues coaching.
Quenneville has 883 career victories as an NHL coach, second behind only Scotty Bowman, Stan’s dad, who has 1,244. How do you fire someone that successful? We might be about to find out.