Relax, Coach Q confirms he's staying with Blackhawks

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Relax, Coach Q confirms he's staying with Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville said it was never a question, even though there was plenty of speculation. Hes happy being the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, and he plans to be here for a while.

Quenneville shot down rumors of going to the Montreal Canadiens during a conference call on Tuesday, stating that leaving Chicago was the last thing I was thinking about.

Over the last few days theres been speculation about other things going on and me being somewhere else. First and foremost, Im excited about being here, said Quenneville, who let assistant coach Mike Haviland go earlier in the day. I love the opportunity and the organization (here in Chicago), and thats something I want to put to bed right now.

Speculation arose after a Hockey Night in Canada Hotstove piece came out on Sunday night. In the segment, analysts said Quenneville would be a good fit for the Canadiens and new general manager Marc Bergevin, the Blackhawks former assistant GM and good friend of Quennevilles. They talked of a rift between upper management and Quenneville and that the coach would be perfect for the Canadiens.

But Quenneville said hes ensconced in Chicago.

Im very happy here and thats the last thing I was thinking about, Quenneville said. Im happy for Bergi that he got the job. Hell do a great job there and hell give the organization some life. I wish him the best. Other than that, thats where Im at.

There had been some issues between the two camps for the Blackhawks this season. There was speculation of a power struggle when Barry Smith, the Blackhawks director of player development and longtime former assistant coach to Scotty Bowman, began helping the power play during team practices. Smith was no longer on the ice come playoff time. At the end-of-season media day, general manager Stan Bowman said the power play was more of a coaching thing than anything. There are a lot of different ways to run a power play and for some reason ours didnt work.

But in that same session Bowman said he and Quenneville had a good relationship: "Joel did a great job. Its a testament to his track record as a coach to weather the storm in tough times. Our team came out of that (nine-game winless) stretch, and we played great hockey toward the end of the year. We see things very similarly.

If it was a question of power, it sounds like Quenneville now has it when it comes to his coaching staff. Quenneville said the decision to fire Haviland Tuesday was his.

"(Stan) did offer me the opportunity for the first time since I've been here -- if I needed to make changes to our coaching staff -- to look at it and have the opportunity to make a coaching change or all the necessary changes that were there. I think the timing was where I felt like a change was necessary and going forward.

And as Quenneville goes forward with the Blackhawks, he also looked at his own coaching. He said hes learning a lot just watching the rest of the playoffs.

"I took a look back at the situation and I had my own reflection on the job I did. I watch other playoff games, I know there is areas where I can be a better coach, said Quenneville, who added that he could do a better job of delegating ice time to players. At the same time, I had an assessment that there is some dysfunction to our coaching staff and we need a change.

Theres been a change on the Blackhawks coaching staff. But it looks like Quenneville will be leading it for some time.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”