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Blackhawks players happy to have Quenneville

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks
Chase Agnello-Dean / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- They lined up along the outer wall of the Waldorf Room at the Hilton Chicago on Friday to watch a press conference announcing their coach's contract extension.

Side by side, members of the Chicago Blackhawks listened to general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville take questions from the media about the three years added to Quenneville's contract.

Quenneville, the only coach in franchise history to win the Stanley Cup twice, is now signed to coach the Blackhawks through the 2016-17 season. His players were happy to hear it.

"I'm excited," left wing Patrick Sharp said before kicking off the Sixth Annual Blackhawks Convention. "He certainly earned the extension, and you look around the League, I don't think there are any other coaches out there with his track record or his proven winning record. Certainly, what he's done in Chicago since he took the team over [in 2008] is a huge part of why we have two Stanley Cups, so it's really exciting to have him back."

What, exactly, do they like about playing for Quenneville?

"A lot of different things," right wing Patrick Kane said. "He's very knowledgeable about the game, obviously. He's respectful of the players and knows a lot of different buttons to push when things maybe aren't going right or [even] when they are going right."

Kane said it seems like Quenneville has evolved as a coach while they've developed as players. They've established a chemistry that comes with continuity and trust, which were buzz words used by Blackhawks brass Friday regarding Quenneville's extended stay.

"I think being with the team for five years now and having pretty much the same core and nucleus, he can tell what to do at certain times and he's learned that as time has gone on," Kane said. "Hopefully I'll be here a few more years with him, because he's a great coach and I'm excited to have him behind the bench."

According to rampant rumors, though, they almost didn't for the 2012-13 season. With injuries to key players, including a severe concussion that sidelined Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks sputtered down the stretch in 2011-12. They lost in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Phoenix Coyotes and the coaching seat for Quenneville was thought to be piping hot.

His players took all of it to heart. The sting of 2012, coupled with the burn of losing in the first round to the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, drove them and Quenneville in 2013.

"That was a tough year," Toews said. "As tough as that [2011-12] season was, not a lot of things went right for us. There's a huge learning curve there and a huge experience factor that going through that gives you. You don't expect to just bounce back and go win the Cup next year, but to a certain degree that's what your goal is and you know the things you've got to do better to get better. So I think those two first-round exits definitely added up to how badly we wanted to win [in 2013]."

It also added up to a contract extension for their coach, who gave them almost all of the credit for it.

"I'm privileged to coach probably the best group in the League," Quenneville said. "... As far as the character, the quality, the experience, the leadership, we have all the intangibles that make a team successful, and I'm privileged to get to be a part of that and get to work with them on a daily basis."

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