The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to make a run at putting together a mini-dynasty.
If they can win the Stanley Cup this season, that will make three championships in five seasons, and it will make them an historical NHL team.
Yes, they have incredible star power with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, but you also have to look behind the bench if you want to get the full picture on how the Blackhawks have become such a dominant NHL team.
If you haven't looked recently, you may not realize that Joel Quenneville belongs in the discussion of the NHL's most accomplished coaches of all time.
Quenneville ranks fourth all-time in regular-season coaching victories. Make that fourth with a bullet, because he will likely be in third place by the time the Blackhawks go on their midseason break prior to the Olympics Feb. 7.
Scotty Bowman sits atop the list with a remarkable 1,244 wins accomplished over a 30-year coaching career, while Al Arbour won 782 during his 23 years behind the bench. Dick Irvin had a 27-year coaching career in the NHL and won 692 games.
Quenneville should pass Irvin shortly since his teams have won 686 games in 17 years. Quenneville has accomplished a lot in a much shorter span than any of the other coaching legends who rank higher, and that's notable.
It's doubtful he will ever pass Bowman—there's no better coach in the history of the sport—but Quenneville is likely to be in second place by the time he decides to call it a career.
Victory totals alone don't make for great coaching reputations. Coaches have to be able to deliver championships, and that's what Quenneville has done. He did remarkable coaching jobs in the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup runs in 2010 and 2013, as he has found a way to dominate with his team's strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
The Blackhawks are known as a puck possession team for a reason. That's why they have been so effective since the 2009-10 season, and that's why they are near the top of the NHL right now. The Blackhawks have seven of the NHL's top 14 Corsi players.
Quenneville was a solid but not spectacular defensemen in his 13-year NHL career (with five teams). But he was always a thoughtful player on the ice, and he has applied what he learned as a coach.
Quenneville has a gift for knowing when to push his players hard and when to back off. He can be tough like an old-school boss, but he can also have fun with his players.
"Playing for Joel is awesome," Patrick Sharp told Tracey Myers of CSNChicago.com. "You know what you’re going to get from him. What I like about him is he’s approachable on and off the ice. You can talk to him about hockey, about personal things, and he’s always there to help out the player.”
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Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw said it's always clear that Quenneville is in charge. “He’s an intimidating guy, but he’s still approachable,” Shaw said. “His systems are great; when we play it to a tee, we’re unstoppable. It’s pretty awesome to be with a coach like him.”
Quenneville shows no signs of slowing down. It is clear that winning two titles in recent years has only intensified his approach, and he is not about to back down with a solid chance at a third title staring him in the face.
Nine coaches have won three or more Stanley Cups in NHL history. Four of them worked exclusively in the Original Six era, meaning that it took just two rounds to win the title.
Quenneville may be getting ready to join that exclusive group.
Whether he does or not this year, it's clear he is one of the best and most consistent coaches in the history of the NHL.
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