Bock’s Score: The NHL Coaching Commings and Goings

In the coaching fraternity, the brotherhood knows that sooner or later, you will wear out your welcome and be asked to clean out your desk and hit the road.

Win a championship here and there and you buy some time. But eventually, you’ll be gone.

That’s what happened the other day to Joel Quenneville, who was behind the bench for 10 years with the Chicago Blackhawks and delivered three Stanley Cups. It was a case of what have you done for us lately?

Quenneville took the Blackhawks to the playoffs nine times in his decade on the job and his teams won the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.  That’s three Cups in six seasons. Not too shabby since the franchise had only managed three other Cups in the previous 82 seasons.

But trouble appeared on the horizon when Chicago posted the best regular season record in the NHL’s Western Conference in 2017 only to be swept out of the playoffs in the first round by Nashville.

When the Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season, the ice under Quenneville became a little thin. Chicago got off to a nice 6-2-2 start this season but then went 0-4-1 in the next five games.


When the end came, Quenneville’s team had 15 points in 15 games and was sitting in sixth place in its division. There had been a tense relationship with general manager Stan Bowman – never a good thing—and that combination of factors led to the dismissal.

And by the way, coach, take your assistants, Kevin Dineen and Ulf Samuelsson, with you.

If Quenneville’s dismissal after just 15 games seemed quick, consider that he was not the first NHL coach to be fired. The Los Angeles Kings dumped John Stevens a couple of days earlier.

Stevens had little more than one season behind the Kings’ bench and was in a tough spot, burdened by the second oldest team in the league and with his starting goalie, Jonathan Quick, sidelined by knee surgery.

After replacing Darryl Sutter as coach after the 2017 season, Stevens, a longtime Kings’ assistant, coached LA to 98 points and a playoff berth last season. But when the Kings were swept aside by the magical dash through the playoffs of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, it meant trouble for him.

When Stevens was invited to leave, the Kings had just nine points, tied with Florida for fewest in the league. It was a hard fall to endure for a team accustomed to success and that spelled doom for the coach. Assistant coach Don Nachbaur also was fired.

Willie Desjardins, who previously coached the Vancouver Canucks, replaced Stevens in Los Angeles. He is 62, one of the oldest coaches in the league.

Jeremy  Colliton, promoted from the AHL,  replaced Quenneville in Chicago. He is 33 , the youngest coach in the league.

Both are on a hot seat, hired now, only to be fired later. That’s the way it is in this business. Just ask Joel Quenneville and John Stevens.


About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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