Joel Quenneville has become a top coach in professional hockey, often referred to as "Coach Q" But Joel also enjoyed a long career as a solid defenseman before he focused his attention towards coaching.
Also known as "Herbie," Joel survived through 13 NHL seasons through intelligence and dependability. A poor skater by NHL standards, Joel learned quickly how to play within his limitations to make himself into a valuable NHL commodity. Although he put up some impressive numbers in junior hockey, Joel played a conservative and unspectacular defensive game at the NHL level, always making the safe play. This didn't win him many accolades with the media or the fans, but his coaches and teammates truly appreciated Quenneville's subtle yet important contributions
Quenneville, who actually considered quitting hockey in junior to study medicine, was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs 21st overall in 1978. He had just come off of a 27 goal, 103 point season with the Windsor Spitfires and the Leafs were hoping he could become an offensive presence in the NHL. The Leafs quickly lost their patience with Quenneville however as it became more obvious that at the NHL level he would be more of a role player. The Leafs included Quenneville in the big Lanny McDonald trade to Colorado in exchange for Pat Hickey and Wilf Paiement.
Quenneville played 3 1/2 seasons with the Rockies/New Jersey Devils before he was traded again in the summer of 1983. He actually was traded to Calgary with Steve Tambellini for Phil Russell and Mel Bridgeman on June 20th, 1983. However a couple of weeks later, on July 5, 1983, the Flames moved Joel and Richie Dunn to Hartford for Mickey Volcan.
While it must have been a tumultuous couple of weeks for the Quenneville family, it proved to be a blessing for Joel. He enjoyed his best NHL seasons in "the Insurance City." Twice he was named as the Whalers most valuable defenseman (1984 and 1985) and he played a big role in helping Hartford win the Adams Division championship in 1987.
In 1991 Quenneville quietly finished his NHL playing career. He was sold to Washington where he played only 9 games and spent most of the year in the minors. In 1991 he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He was to be a playing assistant coach for the Leafs minor league team in St. John's Newfoundland. It was in St. John's that Joel met Marc Crawford. The two worked really well together and both went on to successful coaching careers. In fact Quenneville reached the top of his class in 2000 when he won the Jack Adams award as the NHL's best coach that season after compiling an impressive 51-20-11-1 record for a .695 winning percentage.
Not too bad for a guy who used to spend his summers working as a stock broker in Hartford. Quenneville was an unheralded and under-appreciated player. He scored 54 goals and 190 points in 803 games, but his true worth was helping to develop young defensemen and quietly taking care of his own end. He is going to get more headlines as a NHL coach for many years to come.
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