Monday, May 24, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
With nine Stanley Cup wins and an NHL all-time best 1,244 regular-season victories, Chicago Blackhawks senior advisor Scotty Bowman has been around the rink a few times.
So without deifying a man who felt such kinship with the Cup he named his son (now Blackhawks GM) Stan, there can be no higher praise of a coach than whatever spills from Bowmans lips. And the Hall-of-Famer was quick to praise the job Joel Quenneville has done with the Hawks after Sundays Western Conference finals-clinching win over the San Jose Sharks.
Its so great for Joel, Bowman said. Youve got to have players, of course, but Joel has paid his dues. Its about time.
Bowman was quick to note that Quenneville had indeed coached in the Stanley Cup Finals, as an assistant under Marc Crawford for the 1997 Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche. But after 10 previous playoff runs in 12 years prior to 2009-10, its Cool Hand Qs first taste of the Stanley Cup Finals as a head man.
No one knows a team better than a head coach, Bowman said. This team has stayed focused despite being young and not quite through all the playoff battles a Stanley Cup team usually has.
Bowman also praised Quennevilles work guiding a team that is so marked by youth overall and guided by such young stars as Jonathan Toews (who turned 22 during the playoffs) and Patrick Kane (21). He could recall only his first Cup winner, the 1973 Montreal Canadiens (ironically, cough, upending the favored Blackhawks in the Finals), as having such a young element on it. But the sum playoff points total of players 22 and younger for Bowmans 1973 Habs was just 19 (led by Guy Lafleurs eight) while Toews (26 points) and Kane (20) lead Chicago in playoff scoring (and Toews leads all NHL playoff scorers), and 22-year-old Niklas Hjalmarsson has chipped in five points as well.
This most recent sweep was perhaps as the coup de grace of a brilliant coaching run for Quenneville this spring. Count Bowman as one of many veteran observers who were downright amazed at how well Coach Q focused his team specifically for the Western Conference finals.
These two teams Chicago and San Jose were neck-and-neck all season, the veteran mentor said. By that measure, you couldnt find two more evenly-matched teams. And yet the Blackhawks are advancing with a sweep. I just dont know how you couldnt have done a better coaching job than Joel did.