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.

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

The Blackhawks agreed to one-year contract extensions with defenseman Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo, the team announced Tuesday.

Rozsival's deal is worth $650,000 while Tootoo's deal carries a $700,000 cap hit, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

The move gives the Blackhawks two players eligible to be exposed during this summer's expansion draft.

NHL teams must expose two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in 2015-16 or more than 70 in 2016-17, and they must be under contract in 2017-18.

[MORE: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers]

Rozsival and Tootoo meet those requirements, which means the Blackhawks can now protect Ryan Hartman, who is also eligible.

They are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender. 

Rozsival, 38, has one goal and one assist in 16 games this season, often serving as the team's extra defenseman. Tootoo, 34, has no points in 36 games.

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."