Joel Quenneville has experienced numerous unfamiliar aggravations during his first losing season in 21 years as an NHL head coach — like the repeated questions about his job status beyond this season, the latest of which he faced Wednesday morning after the Blackhawks skated ahead of their game against the Blues.
On the surface, the matter seems silly. Quenneville's resume includes three Stanley Cup championships behind the Hawks bench since 2010. With 1,001 career victories (including playoffs) entering Wednesday, he's the second-winningest coach in NHL history.
On the other hand, those championships are the standard this year's team has fallen woefully short of as it begins the final three-game stretch at 32-37-10 — and last in the Central Division.
So, regardless of whether Quenneville's continuation as coach turns out to be a simple end-of-season formality or a subject truly requiring deep contemplation for President John McDonough and/or general manager Stan Bowman, it will remain a matter of speculation until there is clarity.
Quenneville insisted again Wednesday there still is none. He was asked whether he has spoken with McDonough or Bowman about his future or that of his staff.
"We have not talked in that regard," Quenneville said.
Does that worry him?
"We've never done that in the past," he said. "And we've never been in this spot either."
To Quenneville's point, the unfamiliarity of the Hawks' current plight contributes to the awkwardness and discomfort. So does a media dynamic in which Quenneville is available to reporters just about every day, while Bowman speaks to media only a few times a year.
Soon, presumably, the organization's direction will come into focus for the public. Meanwhile, Quenneville will continue evaluating a handful of young prospects on a team that will have a say in whether the rival Blues make the playoffs.
Youth goals: Rookie Alex DeBrincat entered the final three games with 27 goals, tied for the team lead with Patrick Kane. His third-period goal against the Blues tied the game 3-3 and gave him the team lead.
He is seeking to become the first rookie to lead the Blackhawks in goals since Tuomo Ruutu did with 23 in 2003-04.
Quenneville has come to appreciate DeBrincat's consistency. The 20-year-old Michigan native is usually around the puck and in the play.
"He has a good feel for the game offensively, knows where to go around the rink," Quenneville said. "And defensively without the puck he has pretty good instincts as well."
"He has a deceiving shot and he has some real good play recognition. He has played with a number of guys this year, and (adapts well) to his linemates. His hockey sense really helps him."
One-timers: Captain Jonathan Toews participated in Wednesday's morning skate before missing his sixth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Toews believed he would play as recently as Monday, but apparently there was a setback Tuesday. Quenneville left open the possibility that Toews would play Friday at home against the Blues. … Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz missed an opportunity to play an NHL game against his brother, Blues defenseman Jordan, for the first time. Jordan missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.