Joel Quenneville had no business being behind the bench Wednesday night in Sunrise, Fla.
But, like nothing ever happened, there he was for puck drop, guiding the Florida Panthers to a win over the Boston Bruins.
The Panthers head coach is set to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. Quenneville was named in an investigation into the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, with former player Kyle Beach alleging he was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich. Quenneville, according to the report, was in a meeting about the allegations but did nothing — and as recently as this summer said he did not know about it at the time.
Even if Quenneville is absolved of any wrongdoing, it made absolutely no sense to have him coaching in Florida’s game Wednesday, less than 24 hours before a meeting that could potentially impact his future in the NHL. Apparently, the Panthers were more than comfortable with him coaching — up until, of course, it was time to meet with the media and explain why.
Panthers general manager Bill Zito addressed the media after the game, saying that Quenneville would not take any questions and that Beach’s accusations were “deeply troubling.” Then, as he attempted to hightail it out of the press conference area, he was hit with questions, which he avoided.
Reporter: “Will he still coach the team?”
Zito: “I’m not going to comment. I respect you guys, but I’m not going to comment right now.”
Reporter: “That’s a fair question: Will he still coach the team?”
(Silence from Zito)
Reporter: “Bill, was anybody else from the organization still part of the meeting?”
Reporter: “Was there any consideration for him not to coach?”
Zito (while walking out of the room): “Thanks, guys”
It’s understandable for Zito to reserve comment until after Quenneville’s meeting with Bettman. At the same time, shouldn’t that have been an indication that it wasn’t a good idea to have him coach in the first place? It was a truly awful look for the Panthers and one that was not made better by Zito in the aftermath.
The Panthers next play Friday in Detroit against the Red Wings before facing the Bruins on Saturday in Boston.