Joel Quenneville was selected as a Jack Adams Award finalist earlier this month for his part in helping the Chicago Blackhawks earn the Presidents' Trophy in one of the most remarkable regular-season performances we have seen in a long time.
But after the Blackhawks lost in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night to move to the brink of postseason elimination, is Quenneville now coaching to save his job?
Chicago is one more loss away from becoming the ninth Presidents' Trophy winner in the last 10 years to not reach the Stanley Cup Final after dominating in the regular season.
Failing to advance past the conference semifinals would be the third consecutive disappointing playoff exit for the Blackhawks since the team won its first championship in 48 years during the 2009-10 season.
There's no question that Coach Q came into this lockout-shortened season on the hot seat following two straight first-round playoff losses.
When the Blackhawks started the year with an NHL record 24-game point streak, questions surrounding his job security quickly went away, but they will start to be asked again if Chicago doesn't come back and win this series.
It doesn't matter if the Blackhawks lose this series in five, six or seven games because there are no excuses for them to be eliminated by an inferior Red Wings team. Chicago had won seven straight games against its Central Division rival coming into this year's playoffs and extended that streak to eight games with an impressive 4-1 victory in Game 1.
The problem for the Blackhawks and Quenneville isn't just that they are down 3-1 in this series after three consecutive losses, it's the way the team has put itself in this position that is most frustrating.
Despite the fact that he has better talent, more depth and a group of players with a lot of playoff and Stanley Cup-winning experience, Quenneville has been unable to figure out ways to get the most out of his team in this series.
This isn't a new situation for the 54-year-old, who is 0-5 all time as an NHL head coach in playoff series against the Red Wings.
His offense, which scored the second-most goals in the league during the regular season, has struggled mightily in the last three games with just two goals. Chicago's 2-0 defeat in Game 4 was its first shutout loss of the season and the first time this team has lost three straight regulation games in 2013.
Quenneville tried many different line combinations in Game 4, and none of them resulted in any consistent success. He even put players together who don't have a lot of experience playing on the same line, which is a risky and foolish move in the middle of a playoff series.
Top-six forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad have combined for zero goals in the last three games, and Quenneville has failed to draw up a game plan or find the right line combinations to help spark these players.
Another concern for the Blackhawks in Game 4 was their lack of energy and hunger with a possible 3-1 series deficit on the line. When a veteran group of players fail to play like a desperate team in that type of situation, the blame has to go to the coach for not motivating his group.
The Blackhawks have also lost their composure in the last two games, evidenced by their foolish penalties and lack of poise under pressure. The team's confidence from the regular season has evaporated in a disappointing fashion.
Quenneville had a great regular season and deserved his Jack Adams nomination, but the Blackhawks are not the type of team whose season is judged based on what happens before the playoffs.
This team was the favorite to win the Stanley Cup going into the postseason, and if it does not reach the Western Conference Final, management has to give strong consideration to a coaching change.
If the Blackhawks lose their second-round series to Detroit, Quenneville will have failed to lead his team past the conference semifinals for the 13th time in his 16 seasons as an NHL head coach.
A series loss to the Red Wings would be Chicago's second straight playoff exit to an inferior opponent, and with the team's championship window currently open, the Blackhawks cannot afford to be wasting golden opportunities to win the Stanley Cup because of poor coaching. This franchise needs to contend for championships right now, especially since many of its best players are in the prime of their careers.
Quenneville is a quality NHL head coach with an impressive resume, but he is under immense pressure to make the proper adjustments going into Game 5 that will help his team improve.
Another embarrassing loss and an earlier-than-expected summer vacation for the Blackhawks could result in Quenneville joining Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff as veteran coaches available for hire this summer.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Nick was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs, and he is also a credentialed writer at the 2013 NHL playoffs in Boston.
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