When this nine-game road trip started, few would have predicted that the Blackhawks would have dropped their first five. Even fewer would have predicted that there would be, not only whispers, but loud questions over whether or not Joel Quenneville‘s job is entirely safe in Chicago.
In their loss to the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, it seemed like every problem with this Blackhawks team under Quenneville came to a head. They weren’t blown out, and the effort was there, but the problems are also very easily identifiable.
We already know how poor special teams are. The penalty kill, which surrendered three power play goals on Friday, is abysmal. And the power play, while it might rank in the top half of the league statistically, isn’t anything that could be remotely regarded as consistent.
But when you look at individual players, it’s easy to see where Quenneville’s flaws are in running this team. Viktor Stalberg, as an example, gets a first class ticket to the bench if he so much as breathes wrong. And despite his breakout season, is rarely seen on the power play.
Then you look at a kid like Nick Leddy. He’s only 20 years of age, but is shouldering a heavy load and doesn’t seem capable of handling it quite yet. Especially when he’s stuck next to Niklas Hjalmarsson a good chunk of the time. He’s logging big minutes and has even, inexplicably, seen time on the penalty kill. His inability to use his body and move opposing forwards away from Corey Crawford, have hurt the Blackhawks regularly.
Say what you want about the guys Stan Bowman brought in this past summer and how effective they are, it’s Quenneville’s job to use them. How is it that the Blackhawks rank 28th in the National Hockey League on the penalty kill, yet Steve Montador doesn’t see any time at all with that unit?
Don’t forget about the goalies, either. Coach Q has continued his legendary trend of shuffling his goaltenders, with both Crawford and Ray Emery struggling to get a handle on the job. But one would imagine that if either of the two were to get the bulk of the starts, it’d have to be Emery right?
Obviously, the plight of this team, which has left the question of whether or not this team would even contend for a playoff spot, is not nearly all on the shoulders of Q. But that hasn’t stopped the questions, mostly thanks to the way he’s handled individual situations like Stalberg or Leddy.
I’d classify Quenneville’s seat as “warming up”, but I don’t think it’s nearly at the heat levels that some are claiming it to be. It wouldn’t be the first time a Stanley Cup-winning coach was fired just a short time after hoisting it.
I don’t think Coach Q’s job is actually at stake quite yet, but it could be very soon if the team is unable to actually make adjustments and snap out of their funk.