Chicago Blackhawks Season in Review, Part 5: Are Sparks Flying in Management?
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The Chicago Blackhawks may have organizational issues in areas other than the on-the-ice product. The cracks in the 'Hawks facade could start a little higher up the flow chart.
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville have no public feud going. However, I have long wondered if these two men are on the same page when it comes to the direction of the team.
You may believe that Bowman is at fault for not getting his coach the right players. You might suggest that Quenneville is to blame for failing to properly use the players he has been given. Whatever camp you're in, it seems to suggest a rift that may only grow wider as their time together continues.
Maybe a shakeup is inevitable. Let's look at both sides of the coin:
Argument A: Stan Bowman's the Problem
Bowman decided to solve his second-line center dilemma by having Quenneville convert Patrick Kane from his spot outside. He did not adequately address holes on defense before the season or at the trade deadline.
Bowman let a fat wad of cap space go to waste while deals needed to be made. Most of the one-year deals were disappointments. He is not getting Quenneville the players he needs to make Chicago an elite team.
Argument B: Quenneville's at Fault
He got a defenseman who could have helped clear the front of the net in Steve Montador and opened the season with him as a forward. He yanked Viktor Stalberg's leash even as he was having a breakout season.
Special teams were horrendous, and Quenneville seemed to have no answers as the team went on a nine-game slide in February.
Bowman went out and got Andrew Brunette, one of Q's guys, and the move was exposed as a clinker fairly early in the season. Then the team acquired a suitable bottom-pairing defenseman in Sami Lepisto, who Quenneville chose not to take out of the box. The coach also played John Scott far too often and never gave a lineup the chance to develop chemistry.
The Verdict: The Blame Runs Down Both Sides Of The Street
In reality, both men have had a hand in the failure to advance in the playoffs. Bowman hasn't been able to add the right ingredients, and Quenneville hasn't adjusted to the talent given to him.
Of course, some blame lies with the players, but we're focusing on management right now.
It's hard to deny that there is some discord between Bowman and Quenneville, at least from a personnel standpoint. The way Montador and Lepisto were used this season is pretty obvious proof that Bowman has acquired players that the head coach doesn't want to play.
Could you see Joel Quenneville departing Chicago to accept a job in Montreal?
The two men need to get on the same page philosophically. Can that happen going into an important offseason of housekeeping in the organization?
How is Quenneville going to handle a potential edit to jettison assistant Mike Kitchen if the call comes down from above? Quenneville had to put up with front office tinkering when Barry Smith was brought down to the ice to work with the power play. What if Bowman pushes for Smith or another organizational man to help out on Quenneville's bench?
Exacerbating the situation is the recent move by assistant GM Marc Bergevin to the head post in Montreal. Bergevin was a former player of Quenneville's, and his departure could weaken the head coach's voice in personnel matters.
Could Bergevin make a play for his old coach? The rumors have already started. CBC's Hockey Night In Canada tossed the issue around. It's hard to think that Quennville would want out of a pretty good gig in Chicago, but his departure may not be as far-fetched as one would believe:
Elliot Friedman, from the television broadcast:
There is a sense, if you watched Stan Bowman's media conference from the end of the year in Chicago, that he wasn't really happy with some of the coaching that was done this season. If the Canadiens come calling, is there something that could be—and there is no compensation—but would the Blackhawks be willing to listen?
Bergevin and Quenneville have a close friendship going back to when they were together in St. Louis. Quenneville does have a French background—I don't know how well he speaks it, but he apparently knows it—and I think if the Canadiens went down this route, there would at least be a conversation about Quenneville leaving Chicago and going to Montreal.
Glenn Healy added:
One thing is very clear, guys—there are two separate camps in the Chicago organization. It is one of the worst-kept secrets in hockey. I think, as Elliott does, that Quenneville could have an opportunity to get away.
Whether speculation of a coaching change has legs or not, the front office has to get on the same page pronto. The GM has to nab players the coach can effectively utilize on the ice. All parties involved have to have a uniform idea as to approach this goal.
The 'Hawks barometer may be pointing to more changes in the organization. Might we see sparks flying in the front office this summer?
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