Joel Quenneville is one of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the NHL. He has directed the Chicago Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup triumphs and ranks third on the all-time regular-season victory list (706) among head coaches, trailing only Hall of Famers Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour.
While it seems like Quenneville has been an NHL coach forever, that's not the case. At one time he was an NHL defenseman who played with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies, New Jersey Devils, Hartford Whalers and Washington Capitals.
He spent seven of those seasons with the long-departed Whalers and developed a great rapport with former Whalers great Kevin Dineen during his time in Connecticut.
The two have remained friends for many years, and Dineen was brought in earlier this summer to fill the open assistant coach position created when the respected Jamie Kompon left to become head coach of the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks.
Quenneville had a solid working relationship with Kompon and did not want to lose him, but he is enthused about bringing Dineen aboard. Quenneville alluded to the Whalers connection when he announced that Dineen had been hired last month.
“He’s a good friend — we’ve always been friends,” Quenneville said in a Chicago Tribune (subscription required) article co-written by Chris Kuc and Blake Schuster. “There are a lot of Whalers out there in the coaching fraternity. Sometimes it’s all timing, so the timing with him is a perfect fit.”
Dineen had been fired from his position as head coach of the Florida Panthers early in the 2013-14 season. Instead of sitting for the rest of the season, Dineen's career path took an interesting turn, as he was hired to coach the Canadian women's hockey team at the Sochi Olympics.
While the women appeared to be down and out in the gold-medal game against the United States, the Canadian women rallied for the victory and took home the top honors.
Coaching is a family affair for Dineen, who followed in the footsteps of his father, Bill Dineen. The elder Dineen made a name for himself when he coached the Houston Aeros of the long-departed World Hockey Association to back-to-back championships in 1973-74 and 1974-75. That Houston team featured hockey legend Gordie Howe and his sons, Mark and Marty.
The younger Dineen, who had been the head coach of the Panthers for two-plus seasons, wanted to pursue a head coaching job in the NHL. When no offers were forthcoming, he decided that remaining in the NHL was preferable to coaching in the minor leagues, college or the junior level.
Dineen had several "quality" conversations with Quenneville at the 2014 NHL draft, but he knew that the Blackhawks did not have any openings at the time. However, when Kompon decided to take the position with Portland, Dineen told the Chicago Tribune that things moved quickly, and the two former Whalers agreed to join forces.
While Quenneville has not spelled out what Dineen's specific duties will be this season, he has regularly turned over the details of the power play and penalty kill to his assistants. It seems likely that Dineen will be involved in both of those areas.
Quenneville was a stay-at-home defenseman throughout the majority of his playing career (career-best 34 points in 1980-81), while Dineen was a high-scoring right wing. The two were together in Hartford from 1984-85 through 1989-90. Dineen scored 44 goals in 1988-89 and 41 goals the following season, and he was an All-Star in both seasons.
While the Whalers were a competitive team that made the playoffs in all but one of the seasons the two played together, they only made it out of the first round once. That took place in 1985-86, when they defeated the Quebec Nordiques in the opening round before they were beaten by the Montreal Canadiens in overtime of the seventh game in the following round.
If that sounds familiar to Chicago fans, that's how the Blackhawks ended the 2013-14 season. They pushed the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings to overtime of the seventh game, but their season ended when Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez's shot deflected past Corey Crawford for the decisive goal in the series.
Quenneville is hoping that his old friend and Whaler teammate can help the Blackhawks from enduring a similar finish in the upcoming season.