Joel Quenneville knows a good situation when he sees it, and he likes just about everything he has seen about his Chicago Blackhawks as they face off against the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup beginning with Game 1 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"We were all very fortunate to be here today," he said. "I know that the city has been very supportive and they've embraced us in a lot of ways. And I think Stan (Bowman) alluded to a lot of the things that make it special to be here. John McDonough and Rocky (Wirtz) and the whole organization has been tremendous as far as the way we get treated as players and coaches, and I think everything has been first-class."
So what would winning the first Stanley Cup in Chicago since 1961 mean?
"I think that it will be a great achievement for everybody, I think the city will go wild and crazy," Quenneville said. "I think we're all … I guess we're all in this position right now and we get to enjoy the excitement that's in Chicago. We should all feel it. It's been special, whether you're out in the streets or you're just about every day coming to the rink, you can feel it, you sense it. I think everybody is having a great time with what's going on right now.
"I think the guys are all very appreciative of being here at the same time. We're lucky about playing in a special opportunity in the city that has embraced the team. The ownership, the leadership has been tremendous as far as the support we have."
Quenneville is buoyed by the approach of his team, steeled from the disappointment of losing last year's Western Conference Finals to the Detroit Red Wings. The Hawks came back hungry this season, and Quenneville made all the right moves to break through to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I think we learned a lot by what happened last year in the playoffs," he said. "I think we tried to apply that message in the last round against San Jose. I thought we did a nice job in that area. We've added some leadership as well in the off-season with Marian Hossa
and John Madden and the experience that the guys we have had last year put us in a position where we should be all excited about what's ahead of us.
"I think being a player or a coach, we should all feel the same about something special is ahead of us. We would love to accomplish that at the end of the day knowing, I'm sure, Philly has the same envisions, the same opportunity. But at the same time, the pieces have been in place, and I think the guys are welcoming the challenge and are looking forward to something to be a great accomplishment."
Quenneville owns a Stanley Cup ring from his time as assistant coach to Marc Crawford with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He also has spent seven full seasons as the St. Louis Blues' coach and three more as the bench boss in Colorado. He originally joined the Blackhawks as a scout in 2008-09, but took over behind the bench from Denis Savard early last season.
"When you do win a championship, you can't wait to do it again," said Quenneville, obviously ready to do it again. "It has been a long time since then. And I think as a head coach, you always dream about the position we're in. You always look to the beginning of the season you hope, you envision yourself in this position as well."
Quenneville's position in Chicago has been an enviable one as the team has known plenty of success under his tutelage, a fact that doesn't surprise Chris Pronger, his former player in St. Louis and a foe in the '10 Final.
"He got there when I was 22ish," Pronger recalled. "I think right from the get-go he wanted to help develop and mentor me along even further. And obviously he was a defensive defenseman in the League and a guy who played with a good stick. I'm sure you'll hear their team talk about he's always preaching good stick. It helped my game immensely defensively, but also offensively. Moving the puck, getting into the attack, doing all the little things that a lot of times get overlooked."
Quenneville also moved quickly to become a mentor and confidant of Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
, the two young stars who were rocked when the change was made from Savard to Quenneville.
"I think initially with the coaching change, I think it was probably a little bit, you know, something to think about for the youngsters," Quenneville said. "And at the same time, we didn't really want to change just the focus of these two guys. I think at the end of the day, their progression as players was exactly what we were hoping the way they would play the rest of the season, the rest of the playoffs, their careers, the development has been in the right areas.
"I think Kaner has improved defensively. I think Johnny just keeps getting better and better. I think their growth is as being top players is in the right place. And as an organization, we should all feel very fortunate to have the two great players in that type of fashion in the same two great people as well."
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director