Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Rocky Wirtz backs Joel Quenneville
By Melissa Isaacson
Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz said Tuesday that head coach Joel Quenneville's job is safe next season, regardless of how his team performs in the postseason.
"Oh yeah, there would be no reason [not to retain him]," Wirtz said during a phone interview. "He's signed, they're playing for him. He's not a players' coach, which is good, but he's good with younger players. St. Louis is a prime example. They changed coaches and there was nothing wrong, he just wasn't good with younger players ...
"You have to have coaches willing to adapt. Mike Keenan is terrific if you have an older team, but you don't expect him to be around for four years."
Wirtz said he spoke to the team's general manager, Stan Bowman, during the recent nine-game losing skid, the longest in the NHL this season, and had only one question.
"The only thing I had to ask was 'Did the players quit on the coach?' " Wirtz said. "It's the only thing I asked Stan and Stan said 'No, they haven't quit on him.' So you wait for another day and it works itself out."
Quenneville guided the Hawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, snapping a 49-year drought. But the Hawks didn't qualify for the playoffs the following year until the final day of the season, and they were bounced from the first round by the Vancouver Canucks.
The Hawks entered action Tuesday as the sixth seed in the West.
"Everyone is working hard to tweak the system," Wirtz said. "The trade deadline came and we were not going to [trade] our blue-chip players. How many times have we seen it where people let emotions dictate their decisions, and short-term thinking decide long-term problems?
"When you do that, you take a half-step forward and three back and that's not the way I want to go. I understand that fans think short-term and there's nothing wrong with that. You live or you die in the short term. But I believe in our system and when you do that, you don't make knee-jerk decisions."
Melissa Isaacson writes for ESPNChicago.com.