This is a sad day.
Joel Quenneville didn’t die, but a part of the Blackhawks did. Too sentimental? Too gooey? Three Stanley Cup titles and a whole bunch of ridiculous fun say no.
The Hawks fired their coach Tuesday, replacing him with 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton, who had been coaching the franchise’s American Hockey League franchise in Rockford.
Quenneville deserved better than to be canned 15 games into this season or any other.
Professional sports coaches have the shelf life of a gallon of milk, and by those standards, Coach Q’s 10 years-plus with the Hawks look like a monarchy’s long reign. Felt like it, too. So many crowns. So many trophies. So much hardware. And three championship parades? Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation didn’t know whether to hug him or hand him a bag to help with confetti pickup.
He deserved better than what he got Tuesday.
I get it: There is no such thing as “deserved’’ in pro sports. I can donate a lung screaming that Quenneville, given all his success, deserved to coach the Hawks for as long as he wanted. It doesn’t work that way. Joe Maddon accomplished the unimaginable by managing the Cubs to a World Series in 2016, yet he’ll work through the last year of his contract in 2019 and hope it’s enough to get a new deal after that.
But 15 games into a season, Quenneville tossed aside as if he were a disposable razor? No, that’s wrong.
He steered a franchise to the most success it had ever had, and he did it with grace and class and that gravelly Canadian accent. Whether players were responding to him is for another time. I know this: Players past and present didn’t always agree with him, but he was theirs. They respected him. He was ours, too.
Behind the bench, he usually wore one of two looks – death-stare intense or I’ve-been-wronged indignation. And we’ll always have his crotch-grabbing moment during a 2014 playoff game, when he showed displeasure with the officiating by placing a hand on his private parts and lifting.
“It wasn’t appropriate at all,’’ he said later. “It was a bush-league move on my part.”
No, worries, Q.
We appreciated his fire, and his players did, too.
It’s a truth in sports that general managers almost always outlast their coaches. So even if you’re tempted to say that GM Stan Bowman deserved to be fired for the roster he gave Quenneville, you’re wasting your breath. It doesn’t work that way.
Quenneville is 60. It will be up to him if he wants to coach again. He’s that good, that respected.
He deserved better. I hope he gets it somewhere else, if that’s what he wants.
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