The Quenneville Effect

By Paul M. Banks

When Denis Savard was fired from his position as Head Coach of the Chicago Blackhawks coach just four games into this season, many people criticized the decision. Most were ubercritical about the timing. Savard was a sentimental fan favorite despite a 1-2-1 record on the young season. Today however, the decision to insert Joel Quenneville in place of “Savvy” looks quite astute.

With Coach Q. in place the team has seen its on-ice record (28-12-7 since the Indian committed to Quenneville) improve as much as the team’s Q Rating.

In December Quenneville, the St. Louis Blues all-time leader in coaching wins, guided the Hawks to a franchise record nine game winning streak. After the rough patch that followed, his been there before leadership (which Savvy lacked) got the team winning again, with a 4-2 record (including a big win at San Jose, the Western Conference’s points leader) on a long and tough road trip.

“I think the whole process is going to be good for us, during that stretch pucks were going in for us left and right, but lately they’re all low scoring affairs and we have to be ready to play that game because that’s what it’s going to be from here on in,” Quenneville said. He’s also instilled a specific strategy and philosophy for stopping the opposition’s offensive attack in his team a philosophy.

“Teams win by checking, playing hard defensively and try and prevent. Everybody’s gonna play that way, nobody’s going to try and get into a track meet and exchange chances and think you can win that way in our league. Whether you got a high powered offense or not, the offense comes from how well you check, play positionally and move together,” he stated.

Savvy, the local legend, was a good fit during his tenure because he helped bring the fans back. Quenneville is perfect for right now, when the Hawks seek their first postseason since 2002. His 11 playoff appearances validate that. But he probably isn’t the coach to bring this team another Stanley Cup title. The legendary Scotty Bowman, father of Hawks asst. GM Stan Bowman, came aboard as a Senior Advisor last off-season. Bowman, owner of a record nine Stanley Cups, could be the man guiding the Hawks towards the big prize down the line. Scotty says he has no interest in being bench boss again, but things might change if the Hawks find themselves in the playoffs every year; and with their almost 50 year cup drought intact.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

Q & A with Coach Q.

Paul M. Banks interviews Joel Quenneville

Quenneville talked about the team’s recent skid, following the franchise record winning streak that preceeded it…

“I think the whole process is going to be good for us, during that stretch pucks were going in for us left and right, but lately they’re all low scoring affairs and we have to be ready to play that game because that’s what it’s going to be from here on in,” Quenneville said.

He’s also instilled a specific strategy and philosophy for stopping the opposition’s attack.

“Teams win by checking, playing hard defensively and try and prevent. Everybody’s gonna play that way, nobody’s going to try and get into a track meet and exchange chances and think you can win that way in our league. Whether you got a high powered offense or not, the offense comes from how well you check, play positionally and move together,” he stated.

On Hawks first year forward Kris Versteeg, the NHL scoring leader among rookies…

“I think he’s consistent- he sees plays, makes plays, has some confidence with the puck.
He’s a competitive guy that doesn’t get distracted by any of the stuff that goes on during a game: got good quickness, good imagination without the puck.”


Regarding the Minnesota Wild…

“They’re very good at protecting dangerous ice and boxing out, they’re probably the best team in the league at not letting anything hang around the slot area or passing through those seams, you gotta recognize that.”


Quenneville emphasized the way he motivates scorers in slumps…

“They’re ways you can contribute and feel good, I think everyone loves to score especially scorers and when it’s a little dry you can get some satisfaction by doing other things well and complementing our team game.”

On the sometimes fickleness of Hawks fans…

“I think we should all be appreciative of our fans and the impact they can have on our team and just don’t get distracted and try to get them back on our side.”

His philosophy and outlook for winning the close ones….

“There’s no easy games, look at the 6 games we had on the last road trip, they’re almost all tied or one goal games in the third period. You gotta win in different ways in our league and don’t want to just give them anything to make it easy on the opposition. Get the timely goal and sometimes it doesn’t have to be pretty. I think we’re gonna learn, as we go along that safe and simple, at the right times, is very effective in our game.”


On the rivalry with St. Louis, his former team and why the games are so close…

“They’re improving, they’re a team that plays us hard, all the games have been on the line from start to finish. We know it’s going to be a low-scoring, tight-checking affair. That’s how we’ve got to approach it and we’ve got to find ways to win these kinds of games. They’re a team that prides themselves on playing hard and simple.”