The Joel Quenneville Era ended long before the former Blackhawks coach officially severed his ties to Chicago when he was hired as head coach of the Florida Panthers last week.
In fact, it probably ended long before his firing 15 games into the 2018-19 season. In reality, the Q-era was over when the Hawks were surprisingly swept by the Nashville Predators in a first-round playoff series in 2017 — a postseason failure unlike any other during Quenneville’s tenure as head coach. A Hawks team with the best record in the Western Conference in the regular season suddenly lost both its fastball and its trademark resilience in the span of eight days.
With Quenneville sitting out the remainder of the 2018-19 season, he never returned to the United Center with another team. And with the Hawks adjusting to Jeremy Colliton on the fly, there never was a chance to step back and appreciate what a special — and unique — era it was.
But special — and unique — it was. The Hawks likely will become Stanley Cup contenders again. And they might win another Cup — perhaps even in the Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane era. Some day they might even win three Cups in six seasons. But replicating what the Hawks and Joel Quenneville had in their glory years will be extremely difficult. It was a unique team in a unique time.
Those Quenneville teams were vulnerable, resilient and dominant all within the same postseason — sometimes within the same series. They were loaded with a mental toughness and leadership that was unusual even by championship-team standards. Jonathan Toews is considered one of the great captains of his era — with maturity, steadiness and a resolute drive that seemed to will a team through difficult moments to victory. But when he had his weak moment — taking three penalties in a 5:34 span in Game 4 of a frustrating second-round series against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in 2013 — Brent Seabrook was there to get his captain’s head back in the game.