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Are the Canadiens interested in Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville?

Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix Coyotes

Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix Coyotes

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Updated: June 9, 2012 8:14AM

It was one of the first questions asked to Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman during his end-of-the-season press conference.

How would you describe your working relationship with [coach] Joel [Quenneville] this year? Was it any more strained or different than past seasons?

“Our relationship wasn’t strained at all,” Bowman said. “Obviously, there was a challenge when we had the long losing streak, but if anything we came together as a unit.

“Joel did a great job. It’s a testament to his track record as a coach to be able to weather the storm in tough times, and our team came out of that tough stretch and we played great hockey for the last six weeks of the year.

“It was a case where everybody kind of came together as opposed to pull apart. We have great communication back and forth. We see things very similarly in terms of areas that need improvement. So, from that perspective, I think there’s a lot of synergy between the two of us.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some discord at some point. Bowman intimated there may have been some during the “challenge” of the Hawks’ nine-game losing streak.

A sense of friction is one reason why it’s being speculated that the Hawks wouldn’t stand in Quenneville’s way if the Montreal Canadiens came calling for his services. As of last week, the Canadiens are run by GM Marc Bergevin, the Hawks’ former assistant GM and a close ally of Quenneville’s.

A Hawks spokesman said Bowman, who promoted Norm
Maciver to assistant GM on Monday, won’t comment on “rumors” or “speculation.”

Bowman, president John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz, though, have each publicly defended Quenneville this season. Although it may have been Dale Tallon who replaced Denis Savard with Quenneville, Bergevin, McDonough, Wirtz and Stan and Scotty Bowman signed off on it and remained in place when it was decided that Quenneville would be extended through 2013-14.

Disagreements within the Hawks’ ranks aren’t uncommon. Debates are encouraged and everyone has a say in numerous meetings. Of course, back-to-back first-round exits can change things.

While Bowman and Quenne-ville have offered different takes on areas such as second-line center, the brass’ decision to send in Barry Smith, the Hawks’ director of player development, to help the power play definitely ruffled feathers. Smith was a trusted assistant of Scotty Bowman’s during his coaching career.

It was viewed by several league sources as an undermining of Quenneville, a Hall-of-Fame worthy coach, and a sign of the front office’s discontent with the coaching staff.

But it may also be the biggest point of contention for Quenne-ville. Bowman said after the season that he would talk with Quenneville about potential staff changes first.

Smith wasn’t just sent in for film sessions but instructed players on the ice while Quenneville and assistants Mike Haviland and Mike Kitchen watched. Smith joined the team on road trips late in the season but was nowhere to be seen during the playoffs against the Phoenix Coyotes.

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