When Joel Quenneville came aboard with the Chicago Blackhawks just a few games into the 2008-09 season, he did so with the mission to take a group of young, talented players and mold them into consistent Stanley Cup contenders.
Now, with the team celebrating their third championship under Quenneville’s guidance, the coach is able to reflect on the ride that he’s been on with a unique group of core players.
“(I’m) fortunate to be around them,” he said in his postgame press conference on Monday night. “I walked into a team ready to go. They took off and they keep going. They make guys around them better, play the right way, and send the right message.”
Led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, this group has now been intact for three championships in six seasons, but there might be a few changes coming this summer. With a lower-than-expected raise to the salary cap complicating matters, the Blackhawks could have to part with a player like Patrick Sharp in this offseason, but with so many veterans remaining on the team, Quenneville is confident that the continuity will help the team moving forward.
“They make players around them better,” he said. “Their focus, concentration, each game is important to them to be the best they can be. They lead the charge and they play the right way.”
Looking at the list of contributors, it’s not hard to see why the Blackhawks have been so successful. Toews and Marian Hossa are two-way threats that are just as comfortable playing shutdown defense as they are in scoring goals.
Kane is a dynamic player that demands constant attention by defenses, and he creates offense everywhere. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are machines, and they only seem to get more effective the more that they are on the ice.
All of those qualities make this group a special one, and Quenneville knows that the right blend has been the key to the team’s successes.
“It’s tough to contain as many top guys as we have night in, night out,” he said. “The balance of our team is one of our strengths.”