The Chicago Blackhawks have a coach on the hot seat as they write the opening chapter of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. For the first time since taking over for Denis Savard back in 2008, head coach Joel Quenneville is in real danger of losing his job.
The Blackhawks open the schedule in fitting fashion. First they take on last spring's Stanley Cup champs, then they visit the team that knocked them out of the playoffs.
It's a tough way to get off to a solid start, but that's what Quenneville has to deal with out of the gate.
Quenneville also has to contend with some real pressure from above in the organization. Two first-round playoff exits following the ecstasy of 2010 have used up more and more of the credit a championship can provide in the way of job security.
As his tenure in Chicago continues into its fifth year, there are definitely signs of wear. The constant fiddling with lines is losing its charm. Quenneville has had difficulty getting optimal production from the pieces given to him by general manager Stan Bowman.
Quenneville has most of his club back from a season ago. It will be more experienced on defense with multiple Bowman acquisitions. That was the thinking last year, until defensive addition Steve Montador showed up as a forward opening night.
Bowman's hands are far from clean when it comes to the issues of the last two campaigns. However, the argument can be made that he's in a far more secure position in the 'Hawks' front office.
Quenneville wanted to bring in another coach. Bowman allowed him to fire Mike Haviland and bring in former assistant Jamie Kompon. Quenneville wants some bristle out on the ice. He has Dan Carcillo and Brandon Bollig on the roster along with Andrew Shaw.
How real is the pressure on Joel Quenneville to go deeper into the playoffs this season?
Bowman has also provided another injection of defensive experience in his only significant offseason pickups. Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival are here to reinforce the bottom pairings, not to spark the power play. How are these guys going to be utilized?
Are the special teams going to turn around now that Quenneville has his coaching staff in place? Haviland is out of the picture. It's time to see if he was the problem or just a scapegoat.
Does the fact that Quenneville is operating on the final year of his contract signify a message being sent? Bowman has seemingly given his head coach what he has wanted to move the 'Hawks up the Western Conference totem pole.
Abbreviated season or not, Quenneville has a lot on the line as play commences.