Heading into the 2013 season, expectations are once again high for the Chicago Blackhawks. With their core still in place and a completely healthy roster, there are no excuses this season. They need to produce.
In the middle of it all is head coach Joel Quenneville. Despite being just two years removed from the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in 49 years, Coach Q is likely feeling the heat, and probably won’t be behind the bench for too much longer if this team doesn’t produce.
Under Quenneville the past two seasons, the team has had a hard time finding any sort of consistency, whether it’s during the regular season or the postseason. There are a few reasons for that.
The first is Quenneville’s inability to stick with the same line combinations for more than about five or six minutes, and really just manage his lineup overall. This team obviously is not as deep as it was back when the team won the Cup, and Coach Q constantly shuffles the lines if they even have just a couple ineffective shifts.
You have guys like Viktor Stalberg and Michael Frolik that have found their way into the doghouse, just as Troy Brouwer did before them. Stalberg could be a tremendous asset on the power play, but we never see him, and Frolik has value in the lineup, even if he isn’t lighting up the scoreboard on offense.
Then you have the goaltender situation. Coach Q mishandled Corey Crawford and Ray Emery last season, failing to allow either of them to gain any traction between the pipes with how much he swapped one out with the other.
Quenneville’s assistants could be responsible for his job in 2013. Mike Kitchen and Jamie Kompon will join him behind the bench. Kitchen’s putrid power play will be replaced by Kompon, who brings a track record of his own pitiful power play from the Los Angeles Kings. Having fired popular assistant Mike Haviland, Q better hope these guys can manage his special teams effectively for him, because they were both awful last year.
There is a discourse in the front office that we are all aware of. Quenneville and Stan Bowman disagree on several situations and several players. They may not say it publicly, but the fact that their opinions on matters so often differ in postgame and in the end-of-season press conference is very telling. Bowman won’t hesitate to cut Quenneville loose if the team struggles again in 2013.
And Quenneville knows it. His seat is likely feeling quite warm as we head into the 2013 season.