Coach Joel Quenneville pondered the question on how he’s changed since the 1999-2000 season when he won the Jack Adams Award, the one he’s a finalist for again this season.
“I’m definitely more mellow now than I was then,” Quenneville said to a few chuckles. “You get more familiar with the game and your approach. You have to be ready to change and evolve a little bit. But at the end of the day you have to trust your gut and feel for the game.”
Quenneville’s instincts served him well this season, as he, along with Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau and Ottawa’s Paul MacLean were named this season’s Jack Adams finalists today. For Quenneville, making a lot of the right choices led to the Blackhawks’ stellar record this regular season, which had a 21-0-3 start and earned them a Presidents’ Trophy. But Quenneville said it’s about the players, not him.
“We’re very happy with where we’re at as a coaching staff, but all the credit is deserved for the players,” he said. “The way they competed, the predictability in our game, it was fun being a part of it. You look back on certain seasons, and the fun factor of working with this group is over the top. It was a special regular season and the players deserve the credit.”
But the coach that Dave Bolland called “a teddy bear” deserves some, too. Quenneville made a lot of the right moves in 2013. He thought Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger could help the penalty kill, and they did. He knew when to go with which goaltender; each had a stellar season and combined earned a Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. And he left lines relatively alone all season; granted, with the success the Blackhawks had, the urge to change them was much lower.
“He’s helped me out a lot,” said Bryan Bickell, who went through his healthy-scratch moments last season. “He gets on me but that’s a good thing. In the ups and downs I’ve had, he’s helped me. So it’s nice to see him get that.”
Dave Bolland agreed.
“Since I’ve been here he’s been great. He’s a great coach and mentor to all of us,” he said. “He’s helped my game, changed my game and made me who I am. It’s a great accomplishment.”
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Quenneville knew how to balance the schedule with the lockout. He gave his players a good amount of rest, staying away from the rink when he felt there was no need to be there. That, among other things, has earned him the term “a player’s coach” from the Blackhawks.
“Either that’s some familiarity with how they think or approach the game. We try to be pretty clear with what’s expected of them and reinforce that regularly,” Quenneville said. “Recognizing (the need for) time away or length of practice may be part of that. But to be clear of what’s expected of everybody is probably what they’re talking about.”
Quenneville is the latest of the Blackhawks’ players and staff to become an award/trophy finalist. Brandon Saad is up for the Calder Trophy, Jonathan Toews for the Selke and Patrick Kane for the Lady Byng. But for Quenneville, just like the rest of the Blackhawks, another trophy beckons.