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Stadium Series

Quenneville, Blackhawks praise Torchetti

New Minnesota coach was helpful associate in Chicago

by Dan Myers / Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Joel Quenneville became coach of the Chicago Blackhawks four games into the 2008-09 season, all he knew about his team was what he had gleaned from his years guiding the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. He had just been hired as a pro scout, but became coach when Denis Savard was fired after a 1-2-1 start.

One of the people Quenneville leaned on was John Torchetti, who was one of Savard's assistants. Sunday, Torchetti will make his home debut as interim coach of the Wild in the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS, SN) at TCF Bank Stadium. On the opposing bench will be Quenneville and some of the Blackhawks players he help mold into stars.

"It'll be fun to see those guys back on the ice," said Torchetti, who took over the Wild after Mike Yeo was fired on Feb. 13. "We did some great things with that organization, met some great people, received some great texts [the last week]. It's a big game for us, I want to see where we are at. After that puck drops, it's just another game." 

Quenneville, who will be coaching the Blackhawks in their fourth outdoor game, praised Torchetti's work with during the beginning of his run with Chicago. 

"He had a little feel for the team. He was familiar with some of the players and I think he worked well with those guys," Quenneville said. "That experience helped us and helped myself, coming in new and fresh. The awareness to how they play, things around the organization or the team was beneficial for us and for me." 

Chicago advanced to the Western Conference Final in Quenneville's first season then won a Stanley Cup the following year, Torchetti's last with the Blackhawks before moving on to the Atlanta Thrashers to become the associate head coach.

When Torchetti was there, Chicago was a team in transition. Before Quenneville took over, the Blackhawks hadn't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five years and had been there once in the previous 10 seasons. 

But years of struggles had allowed the Blackhawks to draft Jonathan Toews (No. 3 in the 2006 NHL Draft) and Patrick Kane (No. 1 in 2007), laying the foundation for their current stretch of three Stanley Cup championships in six seasons. Torchetti played an important part in the development of Toews and Kane, taking extra time to help build their games. 

"I only have good things about Torch. I really liked him," Kane said. "Our power play was very successful when he was here, and he was here when I first came into the league too. I remember he would always bring me and [Toews] on the ice early before practice and work on different things -- different things he was teaching [Vincent] Lecavalier and [Martin] St. Louis in Tampa too. Good offensive-minded coach, and I really liked him as a person." 

Developing his young players in Minnesota will also be an important task if the Wild hope to reach the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Once stocked with one of the best farm systems in the NHL, the Wild have seen their youth struggle with consistency. With a veteran leadership core in place, Torchetti has told Minnesota's younger players to take an added stake in leading the team. 

Torchetti said he has been impressed with the job done by alternate captains Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, leading by example on the ice, and by captain Mikko Koivu, who has asserted himself in the locker room. 

"Leadership is a huge thing on any team and we have great leaders on this team," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "But it can't be solely [the veterans], it [has to] come from all of us. We get called 'younger guys' and, yeah, we're younger than them, but we're still three or four years into this league. We're not rookies anymore and we have to bring that leadership to help and balance it out throughout the team. It's time for us to step up a little bit more." 

Within 36 hours of accepting the job, Torchetti had met with every player on the Wild roster, 12 who he coached when he was with Iowa of the American Hockey League, or with Houston, which was Minnesota's AHL affiliate until it moved to Des Moines in 2013. 

Torchetti preached leadership and accountability in those meetings, especially to the younger Wild. The early results -- a 3-0-0 road trip to Western Canada and offensive production throughout the lineup -- have been overwhelmingly positive. 

"They need to start pushing themselves too," Torchetti said. "Our leaders will direct us but I also want the young guys to push themselves to another level moving forward. It's time to make that jump."

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