Stan Bowman refused to comment on the rumors of Joel Quenneville leaving the Windy City for Montreal, but the Blackhawks’ general manager did tell the Chicago Tribune he anticipates his head coach will be back next season, and that he wants him back.
“I think we made that clear at the end of the year, that we’re trying to look forward and get better as a group,” Bowman said.
However, until the Canadiens actually hire a new coach or Quenneville outright says he’s staying, don’t expect the rumors to die down, because they didn’t come out of nowhere.
First, there’s the fact Quenneville’s friend (and ally), Marc Bergevin, was just named the new GM of the Canadiens, moving on from his role as assistant GM of the Blackhawks.
Then there’s this, as per the Tribune:
Other than Bergevin’s friendship with Quenneville, there are other factors in play that have led to the speculation, fueled by a discussion on “Hockey Night in Canada” on Sunday that hinted at strife in the Hawks’ front office that could result in at least a discussion of Quenneville heading to Montreal.
Tribune sources have indicated Quenneville was not pleased when director of player development Barry Smith — a longtime associate to Hawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman — joined practices during the season to help the team work on its struggling power play. Smith continued in that role until the playoffs began but did not travel with the Hawks to Arizona, where they faced the Coyotes in the Western Conference quarterfinals. One source said Quenneville came out on top of a confrontation with management and Smith’s on-ice role was ended.
Quenneville’s contract runs through the 2013-14 season, so his situation is a bit different than Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, another name that’s been linked (at least by those who traffic in speculation) to the Canadiens. Vigneault’s contract expires at the end of 2012-13 and he’ll likely demand an extension this summer.
That said, if I’m Quenneville, I’m slightly worried about my job security heading into next season. The new coach of the Canadiens will surely get signed for more than two years, and he’ll definitely get a longer leash than Coach Q will get next year in Chicago.