The Florida Panthers Should Fire Joel Quenneville

About 18 hours ago, I published a lengthy article on the situation with Joel Quenneville and the fallout from the Chicago Blackhawks sex abuse scandal. I stated in that article that until Gary Bettman meets with Quenneville, no decision should be made in regards to Quenneville’s job status with the Florida Panthers. I also said that Quenneville should not coach last night’s game against the Bruins. Quenneville did, and the Panthers won 4-1, to continue their undefeated run at 7-0-0 in a very awkward game. Why did my opinion change before Quenneville’s interview with Bettman? It’s simple. It’s because of what John Doe said.

At 6:00pm EDT yesterday, TSN released a 25 minute video between reporter Rick Westhead and John Doe. John Doe revealed himself to be Kyle Beach, a former 1st round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks. Beach was considered one of the biggest busts in NHL history, having been picked 11th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, but never suiting up in an NHL game. That moniker is no longer fair to apply to Beach, as it is obvious that the sexual assault he suffered at the hands of Brad Aldrich devastated his career. Beach’s career was ruined through no fault of his own. What Beach said in regards to Joel Quenneville is particularly damning.

When Westhead asked Beach if Joel Quenneville had known, Beach said “Stan Bowman has quoted Joel Quenneville saying-and this is not a quote-this is my words- saying that the playoffs, the Stanley Cup playoffs, and trying to win a Stanley Cup is more important than sexual assault. And I can’t believe that. As a human being, I cannot believe that, and I cannot accept that. I’ve witnessed meetings, right after I reported it to James Gary, that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office. There’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it and there’s absolutely no way that Stan Bowman would make up a quote like that, to somebody who served his organization and his team so well.”

This is extremely damning and with the interview being released at 6pm, the Panthers had a last minute chance to remove Quenneville from the bench before puck drop at 7pm. The Panthers did not do that. The Panthers started sloppy out of the gate, being dominated by the Bruins, before finding their groove and dominating the rest of the game. Sergei Bobrovsky was huge, keeping the Panthers in the game early.

After the game, Joel Quenneville was not made available for comment to the media, which was rightfully decried as cowardice. The fact that the organization allowed him to coach and pulled him from facing the music is an extremely bad look. Rather questions were asked to Panther players on the situation, as Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad delicately balanced their answers to the questions.

Both players answered the questions in an excellent and professional manner and Barkov’s statement that he would further explore the matter is an extremely excellent testament to Barkov’s leadership and character. Anthony Duclair was interviewed immediately after the game and emphasized the brotherhood the team has. Duclair’s comments make me believe that the team is preparing for something difficult to happen in the next couple of days. I believe Duclair in the idea that the team’s bond is strong enough to survive.

Panthers General Manager Bill Zito took the podium in Quenneville’s place for the post game press conference. Visibly shaken and hurt, Zito expressed support for Beach and confirmed that Quenneville would not comment until after his meeting with Bettman today at 2pm. After, a reporter asked Zito if Quenneville would still coach the team. An irate Zito answered “No comment.”

Zito on the podium looked like Caesar after Brutus stabbed him during the Ides of March. It is seemingly clear that Joel Quenneville lied to Bill Zito about what he knew and it is completely unfair for Zito to have had to face the media in that scenario. Either Quenneville or team President Matt Caldwell should’ve dealt with the media.

If what Beach said is true, and based on everything that has come out, there is absolutely no reason to doubt his story, Joel Quenneville knowingly aided and abetted in covering up a sexual assault in order to help win a stanley cup. This is a crime. Now the statue of limitations has expired in Illinois, but Quenneville is certainly liable in a civil court, and both Beach and John Doe(2), who was assaulted by Aldrich while he was a minor, three years after Aldrich departed the organization, have legal standing to sue Quenneville and both of them should.

I highly doubt Joel Quenneville is still the Panthers coach at the end of the day. The meeting with Bettman seems more like if there is a way for the Panthers to get rid of Quenneville based on the league’s decision. Quenneville should not have coached last night. If MLB is having the Dodgers pay Trevor Bauer around $20 million to sit at home and do nothing as Bauer is on administrative leave for an alleged sexual assault, the Panthers should have done the same with Quenneville last night.

If Quenneville indeed lied to Zito and the organization, which is highly suggested by Zito’s mannerisms, there is an out in the contract. Nearly every single contract has a clause that allows for the termination if the party knowingly deceives the organization in regards to a potentially damaging matter. It’s Contracts 101.

I have no reason not to believe Kyle Beach, and if Beach backs what Bowman is saying about Quenneville, then Bowman’s word here should be taken as true. The Panthers tarnished their image last night by allowing Joel Quenneville to coach. The team cannot allow their image to be tarnished further, even at the expense of winning. The Panthers don’t want to fire the man who has coached the team into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but at the end of the day, the organization has a moral obligation to fire him. The team showed it can withstand anything last night. I doubt a coaching change makes much difference, especially if one of the assistants is promoted.

Someone pointed out on twitter yesterday that Vincent Viola was a nominee for Secretary of the Army in 2017. They also said that it is armed forces policy that when a sexual assault is reported, an investigation must be launched within 72 hours. The Blackhawks failed in that regard and Quenneville is explicitly complicit in that. He must go.