With last night’s victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks got to celebrate their third championship in six years. That accomplishment may or may not fit the dictionary definition of a sports dynasty, but it certainly elevates their coach, Joel Quenneville, into some pretty rarified air when it comes to NHL coaches.
Meanwhile, down the road in St. Louis, hockey fans are trying to forget that Quenneville used to coach their team, and did so quite well. He never had a losing season with the Blues, and made the playoffs every year except his last–but he never got the Blues into the Cup Final.
Quenneville is hardly alone in falling short of that mark in the shadow of the Arch. The Blues famously reached the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three years of existence, and lost each time…and have not even been back in the Final since.
How is that even possible?
What really must have St. Louis hockey fans gnawing on the ends of their sticks is the fact that this sort of thing has happened before. The coach of those three straight finalist teams–remember, the first three seasons in the history of the St. Louis Blues–was none other than Scotty Bowman. Yes, the Scotty Bowman who went on to win five Stanley Cups with Montreal (including four in a row), as well as three with the Red Wings (two of them in back to back years). Plus, just to show off, he threw in one other Cup with Pittsburgh back in the early ‘90s.
The St. Louis Blues of the last 45 years could have used a coach like that.
Bowman and Quenneville are hardly alone in finding the grass to be greener–the ice to be icier?–somewhere other than on the banks of the Mississippi. Which coach succeeded Bowman in St. Louis? Al Arbour, of course. The Al Arbour who later won four straight Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders.
That’s not the full list of coaches who left St. Louis and then won a Stanley Cup. It would be wrong to forget that Jacques Demers won a title with Montreal back in 1993. I doubt that St. Louis fans have forgotten.
Four ex-St. Louis coaches have won fourteen Stanley Cups since departing the Show Me State–all since the Blues last reached the Final in their third season.
How is that even possible?
The Blues have tried to go in the other direction, hiring Stanley Cup winners in the hope that a previous champion would get St. Louis back to the Final, and maybe win the thing for the first time in franchise history. Mike Keenan famously left New York, after winning the Rangers’ first Cup since 1940, to try to get St. Louis to the Promised Land. Current coach Ken Hitchcock also fits that bill, having won the cup with the Stars in ’99. Hitchcock actually guided the Blues to 109 points and first place in the Central Division this past season. Surprise!–it didn’t end well; the Blues were bounced in the first round by the Wild.
Chicago had no such problems with Minnesota–or any other team they played this post-season. Quenneville’s Blackhawks know a thing or two about going forty-plus years without a Stanley Cup. Perhaps the celebrations in the Windy City are that much more enjoyable for that town’s denizens, not just because of their own pre-2010 history, but also that certain amount of schadenfreude they must feel over the travails of their Midwest rivals in Missouri.
Maybe the Blues’ struggles are payback for St. Louis having taken away Chicago’s football Cardinals back in the day. Then again, that didn’t work out so well for St. Louis–those Redbirds now play in the desert a time zone away. A better reason for revenge may be the baseball Cardinals and their penchant for torturing Chicago’s beloved Cubs. Wrigley’s team currently holds the second NL wildcard position, and is battling Pittsburgh for second place in the Central, 7 games behind the–of course–division leading St. Louis Cardinals. Everything is pointing towards more baseball heartbreak on the North Side this Fall.
But St. Louis’s chance to strike another blow in that eternal struggle rests in the future. Right now, the Gateway City’s sports fans must swallow hard and watch as Chicago’s Blackhawks skate with yet another Stanley Cup, and contemplate–yet again–that their team has not even made it to the Final since 1970. They must be asking themselves, “How is that even possible?”
And, as they admit their grudging admiration for Joel Quenneville’s accomplishments in Chicago, St. Louis Blues fans may also be asking themselves, “Where can we get a coach like that?”
(Featured image: Joel Quenneville behind the Chicago Blackhawks bench during Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Source: nhl.com)