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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman expects Joel Quenneville will return as Chicago coach in 2012-13

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Joel Quenneville, leaving the Chicago Blackhawks for the Montreal Canadiens? All the evidence was pointing in that direction.

He had lost two allies in the Chicago front office in Dale Tallon, who hired him as coach and is now the GM in Florida, and Marc Bergevin, who helped get Quenneville his initial scouting gig with the Blackhawks and is now the GM with the Canadiens.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks were eliminated in Round 1, Quenneville was on the hot seat during a regular-season losing streak and he was allegedly having some friction with management.

So Coach Q to the Habs looked like a distinct possibility, save for one factor:

His general manager in Chicago expects Quenneville will coach the Blackhawks in 2012-13.

From Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune:

When asked Monday if Joel Quenneville would return as the team's coach next season — despite growing whispers that new Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin would somehow orchestrate things so his close friend would leave the Hawks and join him as Montreal's coach — Bowman said he was committed to Quenneville.

"Yeah, I think we made that clear at the end of the year, that we're trying to look forward and get better as a group," Bowman told the Tribune. "But I don't talk about rumors. I haven't and I don't want to start now."  Just to clarify, the question was broached again if Bowman anticipated Quenneville, whose contract runs through 2013-14, coaching the Hawks next season.

The GM chuckled and said: "Yes."

So is Quenneville set for the Blackhawks in 2012-13? It could depend on the conditions, and his own desire to stay.

Via Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, some changes could be afoot on the Chicago bench:

While Bowman and Quenneville 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 Quenneville. Bowman said after the season that he would talk with Quenneville about potential staff changes first.

Al Cimaglia of Fox Sports believes that a change could come if Quenneville tells Bowman and owner Rocky Wirtz he wants out:

It would seem more likely a coaching change in Chicago would be made at this time only if Quenneville wanted out. It would have little to do with the Montreal vacancy. Quenneville could be moved aside and re-assigned to scouting. Down the road when another coaching vacancy presents itself he would then be given the opportunity to move on.

If Wirtz decides the working arrangement between his GM and head coach is unfixable he could look to promote from within. According to some whispers, assistant coach Mike Haviland has been given an unwritten promise that he will eventually succeed Quenneville.

If Wirtz decides to go that route, the transition would most likely be the smoothest. The core players especially, are big Quenneville supporters, replacing him won't go over well. Haviland is also well-liked so players would have an easier time accepting him as their new bench boss.

So even though Bowman said he anticipates Quenneville will return, the uncertainty remains as apparent as the glorious mustache on Quenneville's face.

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