Joel Quenneville

Columnist believes Joel Quenneville’s job could be in danger


The NHL ranks pretty high among professional sports leagues when it comes to treating its coaches with a “What have you done for me lately?” approach. It’s almost comical how a bench boss can go from a Jack Adams winner to unemployed – sometimes in the span of a couple seasons.

With that in mind, it’s almost not too ridiculous to read some murmurs about Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s job security. (Almost.)

Adrian Dater brings up that question in his Sports Illustrated column. Before you call Dater a buffoon, sample his historically-backed argument:

Think it can’t happen? This is the NHL. Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and was fired in 2008. John Tortorella won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and was axed three seasons later. Bob Hartley won it with Colorado in 2001, went to Game 7 of the Western finals in 2002, and was canned 31 games into the ’02-03 season. Randy Carlyle won the Cup with Anaheim in 2007, and now he’s looking for work.

Quenneville has a contract that runs through the 2013-14 season, but money is about the only thing it guarantees. The pressure is always high on coaches in a league where financial profit usually only comes with a playoff berth. Quenneville is not immune to such reality. If his team’s current six-game losing streak (0-5-1) continues, and the postseason starts to look at all like the dicey proposition it was last year, sources close to the situation tell that a change behind the bench is possible.

Much like when the Pittsburgh Penguins hired Michel Therrien and the Washington Capitals promoted Bruce Boudreau, there was a noticeable difference when Chicago brought Quenneville in. Still, the Blackhawks are spending a lot of money and are far removed from the low-profile days of Daze and Zhamnov, so you never know.

Let me ask, then: is Quenneville’s seat getting hotter in Chicago?

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado