If Joel Quenneville wants to listen, then the Blues have to make that call.
Nothing personal against current Blues coach Mike Yeo.
But when one of the all-time coaching greats becomes available because of the Chicago Blackhawks’ foolish decision to make a change behind the bench — I guess Quenneville winning three Stanley Cups wasn’t enough to satisfy his bosses — then the Blues have to gauge “Q’s” interest in their job.
The Blues are underachievers. They are a dispassionate team. Their effort is lacking. They collectively have a faint heart. Their competitive character is null and void. Their so-called stars do not play at a star-caliber level. Their so-called leaders do anything but lead; they’re a huge part of the problem.
Blues players are great at two things:
1. Getting overpaid.
2. Getting coaches fired.
Yeo can’t get through to wealthy young athletes. Yeo can’t fix their brains. If the boys are in the mood, they compete. If they aren’t in the mood — it’s OK … the coach will take the hit.
The Blues have to make that call. Quenneville might be the only coach out there who can do something about a roster loaded with too many head cases and a locker room that hosts a poisonous culture. Quenneville has won three Cups, he’s the second-winningest coach in NHL history, and he is a man of stature and prestige.
Blues chairman Tom Stillman has funded a payroll that brushes the ceiling of the NHL salary cap. This season already is in jeopardy, with the 4-5-3 Blues sinking fast in the Western Conference. If the Blues can’t get motivated soon, their season will be over by Thanksgiving. And that would be a competitive, artistic and financial disaster for the franchise and their devoted owner.
That’s why you call Quenneville.
It’s a 9-1-1 call.
Yeo is on a downward trend. Despite a positive offseason of roster upgrades along the forward lines, this team is 27-29-7 since last Dec. 12. And is 5-10-3 going back to the final six games of last season. The Blues are mediocre at home now; their 17-16-2 record over the last 35 games at Enterprise Center is embarrassing. This team has too much talent to be mucking it up like this.
The Blues have to make that call to Quenneville the way the Chicago Cubs made the call when Joe Maddon became available to manage. In about six minutes the Cubs reeled Maddon in, and fired Rick Renteria after only one year on the job.
The Blues must make the call just like the Oakland A’s reached out to Tony La Russa in 1986 after TLR was fired by the Chicago White Sox. The A’s thanked someone named Jackie Moore for his service as manager, and cleared out his office to move La Russa in. When Vince Lombardi wanted to return to coaching in 1969, the Washington Redskins didn’t hesitate to fire their coach Otto Graham.
Here’s what we don’t know:
Does Quenneville have interest in the Blues’ job?
There are several reasons why Quenneville would politely pass on the chance to return to St. Louis to coach the Blues. Just because “Q” has more regular-season wins than any coach in Blues franchise history — and is especially fond of our town — it doesn’t mean he’d jump at the job.
After abruptly being fired by the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday morning, Quenneville ….
Maybe Quenneville would just say no to the Blues because he doesn’t think this team is capable of contending for a Stanley Cup anytime soon.
Or because this is a historically futile franchise in the competition for the league championship.
Or because every coach who takes the Blues’ job is doomed because of that poison in the locker room. It has festered through generations of players — conniving players who apparently have a sixth sense of knowing just when it’s time to overthrow the latest coach.
Quenneville knows this all too well. The poison got to Quenneville here the first time around. Despite being the winningest coach in The Note’s history and an all-around class act, “Q” was fired on Feb. 2004 after seven-plus seasons, 307 victories and a .598 win percentage.
Here’s what Blues defenseman Chris Pronger said on the day Quenneville was scapegoated by Blues’ management:
“Somebody’s got to take the heat when the team’s not playing very well, and it’s pretty tough to fire a whole team,. Obviously, the coach is the easiest guy to let go, but at the same time we as players haven’t played very well … at times we seemed lackadaisical out there and not really put our best foot forward. For Joel to take the heat for that is kind of sad.”
How many times have we heard a version of this through the years?
It’s the same sad song for every Blues’ coach.
Coming home could be overrated when home is the place where coaches go onto the hot seat about three hours after signing a contract.
Quenneville, 60, probably has better things to do than babysit team “leaders” such as Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen.
And Quenneville undoubtedly would prefer to go compete for a Stanley Cup instead of, say, taking a job as Dr. Q to analyze what’s inside of Jake Allen’s head.
Quenneville doesn’t need the Blues’ gig. He has 890 regular-season victories, second to Scotty Bowman in NHL history. He’s coached in 1,636 regular-season games, second to Bowman. He’s won 118 postseason games … second to Bowman.
The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups in a 28-season span from 1934 through 1961.
Chicago didn’t win another one until Quenneville’s first full season (2009-2010) as the coach. And he proceeded to win three Stanley Cups in only six seasons.
There will be heavy demand for Quenneville’s esteemed coaching ability.
The day before Quenneville got fired, Mark Lazerus, who covers the Blackhawks for The Athletic, had this to say when a reader asked about the coach’s job security:
“If Quenneville were fired, he’d have five job offers within hours, and would be a head coach again by next fall at the latest. He’s the most accomplished coach in the league, and one of the most accomplished coaches in league history. And he has a lot of years left in him.”
Lazerus added that it would be “lunacy” for the Blackhawks to fire Quenneville.
“Is Quenneville blameless for the Blackhawks’ slide? Of course not,” Lazerus wrote. “He’s been stubborn with certain lineup decisions and schemes, and his and Kevin Dineen’s power play has been a disaster for a while now. But I have two questions for the #FireQ brigade: Was Quenneville the one who traded away Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen and Phil Danault, among others? And who is out there, ready to step in, that’s a better coach than Quenneville? The answers are no and nobody. Change for the sake of change is foolish. A time-traveling Scotty Bowman himself couldn’t wring a 50-win season out of this roster.”
Here’s some perspective from respected USA Today hockey columnist Kevin Allen:
“If Joel Quenneville had been fired over the weekend, he might be the coach of the Los Angeles Kings today. Count on Quenneville rumors to ramp up related to the Florida Panthers or St. Louis Blues or any other team with a coach on the hot seat.
“The best indication of whether Quenneville deserved to be fired by the Chicago Blackhawks today will be his popularity in the coaching market over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s fair to say Quenneville, 60, is the leading candidate to be hired for the next coaching vacancy. He ranks second all-time in wins with 890.
“Chicago GM Stan Bowman’s decision to fire Quenneville and replace him with American Hockey League coach Jeremy Colliton, 33, had nothing to do with Quenneville’s ability to coach.
“Quenneville is out of a job because this is the price to be paid for three Stanley Cup championships between 2010-15. When a team has that much success, top players receive lucrative contracts, depth erodes, players grow older, the process becomes stale and the coach gets fired. It’s just what happens.”
Make the call, Blues.
Make Quenneville say no.
Thanks for reading …