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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Can't Keep up with all the Madness on Madison

10/23/2008 8:25 AM

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By Chad Huebner

I remember watching a part of Lewis Black’s standup comedy on TV when he was talking about coming up with jokes about the Bush administration. Basically, something unbelievable would happen one day, he’d come up with a joke about it, then something more unbelievable would happen the next, and he’s have to come up with a joke about that one, too. Then something even more unbelievable would happen the following day and on and on it goes. The point he was trying to make was that it was hard to keep up with the madness.

Well, that’s how I feel when I’m trying to keep up with the Blackhawks doings of late. First, this column was going to be about the opening games, and getting excited that the ‘Hawks are broadcasting all their games this season (which looks stunning in HD, of course). Then the ‘Hawks started losing: first the two 4-2 losses against the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers, who both are now the early season picks to battle in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then a heart-breaking shootout loss in their home opener to Nashville with a shootout that ended on an uninspired note (Patrick Kane missing a shot he would have made nine times out of 10 a season ago, then Marty Havlat lifting his shot above the goalie’s head, followed by the game-winning goal given up by Christobal Huet in the five hole). I was prepared to write about either hitting the panic button, or trying to stay cool, and then the ‘Hawks win a convincing game against an even younger Phoenix Coyotes team, thanks in no small part to the ‘Bulin Wall practically standing on his head all game (something the ‘Hawks hoped would’ve happened more often since they got him in free agency, thus prompting the move to get Huet, who I’m not totally sold on as the starter yet). I was going to write about hope springing eternal, or something like that, and then after that upbeat win, the ‘Hawks announce the firing of head coach Dennis Savard and the hiring of Joel Quenneville. 

See what I mean? How can I, let alone anybody else, keep up with all this stuff? It’s mind-boggling, to say the least, almost as mind-boggling as letting a head coach go that the players liked playing for after a great win and only four games into the season. I mean, that sounds exactly like something the old ‘Hawks regime would do, usually accompanied by Dollar Bill Wirtz eating the guy’s heart in some sort of pagan sacrifice ritual. But these are the new ‘Hawks, right? They’re all about big changes, changes that’ll benefit the fans, players, everyone involved. Surely there’s some sort of madness to letting Savard go, right?

Well, at first I was hard-pressed on finding the good in all of this. Did you know that Quenneville was hired as a pro scout for the ‘Hawks back in May? I didn’t, but it might have been one of those under-the-radar hirings that most people will usually dismiss. I did hear that Quenneville was at training camp and the practices, taking notes on the team. Apparently, he was trying to figure out how to coach the team himself. 

I could see a team yank their head coach after only a few games into a long NHL season. It’s just that the timing of this move is a bit off. Really, right after a great win? Why not just wait until the ‘Hawks really screw up to pull the plug? I can’t believe I actually agree with such a move, but it seems to make more sense, doesn’t it? I don’t know.

So now the ‘Hawks go with a guy notorious for having good regular seasons, but falling far short of expectations in the playoffs. He never had a losing season in his 11 seasons of coaching the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche (even when he was fired by the Blues during the 2003-04 season), and had his teams finish first or second in their division eight times. Yet he’s reached the Conference Finals only once, losing in the first or second round seven times. Truly, a Jekyll and Hyde case from this guy.

But maybe the sterner leadership of a Quenneville will be better than having a friend of the players as head coach. Maybe players feel more comfortable around a friendly head coach, but also don’t feel the pressure to perform better on the ice. And maybe had the ‘Hawks had a stricter guy at the helm, they would’ve made the playoffs last year instead of just finishing three points out of a playoff spot. The ‘Hawks are the second-youngest team in the league, and could perhaps use a heavier hand at the bench.

That’s a lot of “maybes” and “could be-s”. Let’s just hope that Quenneville can take over as seamlessly as possible and instill confidence in this young club that all the good stuff that happened to the organ-I-zation in the preseason wasn’t hype.

Otherwise, the only thing that’s changed about the ‘Hawks is that fans have the chance to watch the team lose, home and away (which will still look fantastic in HD).

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