Blackhawks players raise their Cups to Joel Quenneville’s consistency
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org July 26, 2013 7:15PM
Updated: August 28, 2013 6:14AM
Patrick Kane was a 19-year-old kid who didn’t much care for backchecking. Jonathan Toews was a 20-year-old kid who’d just had a ‘‘C’’ slapped on his sweater. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp were burgeoning stars, just coming into their own.
In the nearly five years since the Blackhawks fired coach Denis Savard just four games into the 2008-09 season, the core group of players has grown, developed and matured into seasoned veterans with two Stanley Cups to their credit. A lot has changed since then, on and off the ice.
The one constant? Joel Quenneville.
‘‘I always see Joel as the same old coach,’’ Keith said Friday as the Hawks kicked off their annual fan convention by announcing a three-year extension for Quenneville, who’s locked up through the 2016-17 season. ‘‘That’s what we appreciate out of him. You always know what you’re getting with him.’’
When Quenneville took over in October 2008 — already with 11 years of coaching and 14 years of playing under his belt — he didn’t quite know what he was getting. But he liked what he saw.
‘‘We had a real young team,’’ he said. ‘‘Right off the bat, you could see the talent and the skill and the ability. These guys were just at that point of their careers where they were just absorbing a lot. There was so much talent, we had so much depth on our team. . . . I was very privileged to walk in with a team ready to go.’’
And Quenneville proved to be the right guy at the right time, leading that 2008-09 squad to a difficult but educational conference final loss to the experienced Detroit Red Wings and parlaying that into a Stanley Cup the next season. Two first-round playoff exits later, Quenneville found himself on the hot seat, his job and his legacy very much in jeopardy. But an unforgettable run to a second Stanley Cup assured his place in Chicago history.
The Hawks deferred much of the credit to Quenneville’s stalwart attitude and unwavering belief in his system and his style.
‘‘He’s been very consistent,” Sharp said. “He’s a big reason why those [young] players and the team in general developed and has improved over the years. We’re all excited he’s still here.’’
Added Kane: ‘‘He’s respectful of the players and knows a lot of different buttons to push when things maybe aren’t going right — or when they are going right. I think being with the team for five years now, pretty much having the same core and nucleus, he can tell what to do at certain times. He’s learned that as time has went on. Hopefully we’ll be here a few more years with him, ’cause he’s a great coach.”
Quenneville’s extension kicks in at the end of the coming season, meaning he has four more years on his deal. A repeat of the last four years is obviously asking a lot, but with the core and its coach in Chicago for the long haul — ‘‘It’s a huge relief not to see half of your team traded away or sign with other teams in the offseason,’’ Toews said, alluding to 2010 salary-cap purge — the Hawks believe anything’s possible.
‘‘It’s much-deserved for him,’’ Toews said. ‘‘For me, as a captain, with the core group, we like that consistency, we like knowing what to expect from our coaching staff. . . . That’s one of the big reasons we’ve had so much success — that understanding, that consistency. We don’t have to adjust to anything new. And if we have new faces, new players in our locker room every year, they know the drill pretty quick. They learn what it takes to be a Blackhawk and what it takes to win on a regular basis.’’