A day after their former coach Denis Savard was relieved of his duties, the Blackhawks were back on the ice under new head coach Joel Quenneville, preparing for tomorrow’s game against St. Louis.
Although the Blackhawks players were surprised about the decision to change coaches, players such as Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Sharp
say that Quenneville’s proven track record is an asset to the team's goal of making the playoffs this season.
“He’s a great coach,” said Sharp “His record speaks for itself, he’s a proven winner and he’s instantly respected here in this room.”
“Our goal this year [is] to make the playoffs,” said Toews. “His résumé shows that he’s one of those guys who can help us do it.”
The players said that Quenneville outlined some of his plans for the team when they met with him earlier Friday, but he’s not immediately going to make wholesale changes to the Blackhawks’ system.
“It’s just a few little changes, schemes that you play differently” said defenseman Brian Campbell. “But you just have to adapt to those as you go along.”
“He told us that he respected the guys in this room and what we’re capable of doing and that he’s not coming in here to reinvent the wheel right away,” said Toews. “He’s got a style of coaching which may be different in many ways, but we haven’t seen it yet. For now, we just have to focus on what we have to do.”
With the addition of a coach with Quenneville’s winning record coming into the fold, the players know that the stakes have been raised for the season; winning is the team’s top priority.
“It certainly makes you take a look in the mirror and makes you realize that we really do have some pressure,” said Sharp. “We do have some expectations.”
Quenneville will implement his own system eventually, but the players say that their first priority is winning both games this weekend in St. Louis Saturday and against Vancouver on Sunday.
“We’re moving forward, we’re still a team,” Sharp said. “We’re looking forward to playing some games, more than anything.”
Quenneville Meets The Press
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville emphasized that urgency and speed will be two important ingredients for the Blackhawks’ success this season, something he tried to get across to his team in their first practice together.
“We don’t want to change many things about our game. We want to make sure we do things quicker, with more urgency with more repetition in practice,” Quenneville said. “We want to take our practice habits and the speed of practice into our games.”
Quenneville said that he has lots of talent to work with in Chicago and wants to use the team’s youth and quickness to its advantage.
“I think you’ve got some good assets here. You’ve got some high-end skill players, you’ve got some young kids with a lot of energy,” he said. “You’ve got some room to grow in our individual skills and our team game as well. It’s a nice group to work with.”
One philosophy Quenneville will carry over from Denis Savard’s tenure is that he will continue to switch between his two veteran goaltenders; there is no commitment to making one the “starter” just yet. Nikolai Khabibulin will get the start Saturday against the Blues, Quenneville stated, but after that the Khabibulin-Cristobal Huet tandem will continue.
“It’s really early in the season,” said Quenneville. “I told Habby he’s playing tomorrow night, and we won’t look past that game. But I think we’re fortunate to have two solid goaltenders here; it’s nice when we have tough decisions.”
Quenneville added that he feels honored to be given an opportunity to coach with this young team that is still on the rise, and that he’s going to do everything he can to bring the fans a winner immediately.
“It’s a great opportunity. This is a great place to be right now,” he said. “I feel fortunate, but at the same time pressure is an every-day occurrence. We’re in the winning business and that’s what I enjoy.”