On Dec. 17, 2013, Joel Quenneville became one of the winningest coaches in NHL history. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 to win his 685th game as a head coach and his 222nd with the Blackhawks. He is now fourth on the list of all-time winningest head coaches in NHL history behind Blackhawks Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations Scotty Bowman (1,244), Al Arbour (782) and Dick Irvin (692). And while he does not have the most wins out of any Blackhawks coaches (that honor belongs to Billy Reay, who won 516 games as head coach), it could be argued that Queneville is the greatest coach the Hawks have ever had.
Now, if we were focusing entirely on wins, then Quenneville would most certainly not be the greatest coach in franchise history; that honor belongs to the aforementioned Reay. But here’s the thing: Reay never won a Stanley Cup in his 13 seasons (1963-1976) with the team. In terms of winning percentage, however, Quenneville is right at the top.
But there’s more than that. It’s what Quenneville has done that makes him the greatest. Quenneville took over just four games into the 2008-09 campaign from Denis Savard, a fan favorite. But Quenneville quickly won over fans after taking the Hawks to the Western Conference Finals — where they would lose to the hated Detroit Red Wings. Quenneville’s no-nonsense coaching style brings out the best in his players, and that’s paid dividends with two Stanley Cup championships.
At the same time, Quenneville has helped turn the team into one of the NHL’s elite. At the time Quenneville was hired, this seemed like a dream, especially when you stop to consider that this was just a year after the death of controversial owner Bill Wirtz. Oh, and another thing: He’s never had a losing season with the Blackhawks. In fact, he’s never had a losing season, period.
Not only has he managed to take two massive superstars (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) and make them use their talents for the betterment of the team, but he’s also gotten role players like Ben Smith to contribute. It’s something that another certain mustachioed head coach managed to do with another superstar. This has helped the team become a tightly-cohesive unit that’s able to poke fun at each other and still perform well on the ice. He’s kept calm and collected no matter the situation, and adapted to face a problem, which has made him such a successful coach.
In the city of Chicago, Quenneville is already one of the city’s coaching legend, next to Mike Ditka and the previously-alluded to Phil Jackson. But Quenneville’s Blackhawks have managed to capture the city’s attention in a way that rivals the 1985 Chicago Bears and all six Chicago Bulls championship teams. His mustache is certainly legendary.
Fact of the matter is, Quenneville has done more for the Blackhawks than any coach before him. He helped rescue a struggling franchise and turn it into the darling of a championship-deprived, sports-mad city, delivered two Stanley Cups, has won plenty of games and has the best team in the NHL as of right now. Because of this, Quenneville deserves to be considered the greatest coach in franchise history.