When Joel Quenneville thinks back to his 500th career win as a head coach, he probably won’t have much trouble recalling the Blackhawks' 4-3 win that brought him to the milestone. Down twice in regulation, the Hawks managed to tie the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-3 after regulation, and it took an eleven-round shootout for Chicago to earn the victory.
“It was certainly a big win for us,” said Quenneville. “I like the way we hung together out there. It’s always a dangerous game the first time back after a long road trip, but we fought through it and did some good things.”
The effect that Quenneville has made on the young Blackhawks team is definitely noticeable; since taking over as head coach, his .663 regular-season winning percentage is the highest in Blackhawks team history. Additionally, the veteran coach took the NHL’s youngest team to the Western Conference Final last spring, directing the squad’s youthful energy into disciplined and consistent play.
“He’s been great for us,” said Brent Seabrook
, who scored the shootout-winning goal. “He’s instilled a great work ethic, a great system and has been really supportive of such a young team. To see him get 500 is really special.”
“He brings so much intensity to our team,” said Kris Versteeg. “He gets the best out of us every night, and he puts us in a position to win every game. You haven’t just seen his success with our team; you’ve seen him succeed with other teams in the past. “
With the milestone approaching, some of the players in the locker room say that they saw the importance and sense of urgency of winning number 500 for their coach.
“It really means a lot,” said Cristobal Huet. “Any time a coach has such a long career and has done so much for the league, you want to give something back to him.”
“I know we were thinking about it a little bit in L.A. and in Anaheim, but it’s especially good here at home,” said Seabrook. “It’s great to get this one out of the way so he can go for a few more milestones here.”
Quenneville took time to acknowledge the part his current and former teams played in his enormous success.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work in a lot of great places with a lot of great teams along the way,” he said. “I’ve had some great coaches and players around me. And winning is what it’s all about.”
But in typical Quenneville fashion, his focus almost immediately shifted to the Hawks’ next contest Friday against Nashville.
“I don’t know how many hundreds of wins I am behind Scotty,” he said in reference to Blackhawks Senior Advisor Scotty Bowman “It’s certainly a milestone, but as a coach you’re always looking to win the next one. That’s where we are right now.”