The Hawks' new bench-boss has given the team a whole new attitude on the ice.
The highly controversial move that had Joel Quenneville replace Denis Savard just four games into the season is now paying dividends. The team is 5-1-2 since, and it's starting to look like the season people have expected since Chicago made its free agency splash on July 1st.
Quenneville is a no non-sense kind of guy. He has a reputation of working his players hard, particularly in practice, and he won't settle for coasters. If you're on a Quenneville team, you better bring it every night.
The results of his coaching style speak for themselves. He's never had a losing season in his 11 years as an NHL coach.
In eight of those 11 seasons, most with the St. Louis Blues and the rest with the Colorado Avalanche, his team finished either first or second in its respective division. Looks like he'll up that to 9 of 12 in that stat by the end of this year.
The Blackhawks are a young team. They had sky-high expectations and something not every NHL team has to deal with: playing in front of the third largest market in the United States. Chicago is sports-hungry 24/7, but the Hawks are always competing for attention with the Cubs, Bears, White Sox, and Bulls.
Playing for such a city is never easy. Falter early, falter at all, and interest is lost quickly.
After a mediocre, in some ways frightening, 1-2-1 start under Savard, the Hawks are right where they should be. They're undefeated in regulation at the United Center and Quenneville makes sure they come to play every night.
Yes, every night.
He's injected serious energy into a team that seemed unsure of themselves far too often early, even if it was just four games. Quenneville has calmed the waters.
As a former defenseman who knew how to get on the scoresheet, Coach Q brings another element to this team that is loaded with offensive talent on the backend (IE. Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook). He lets them loose. He understands the importance of that; he wants his d-men to get more involved on the other side of the ice, take more shots, and set up more plays.
Considering that coaching philosophy, it's no coincidence that Campbell has a goal and six assists, Seabrook has three goals and an assist, and Keith has a goal and three assists all since Quenneville has taken over.
The Central Division standings currently have Detroit first with 18 points and Chicago second with 15 with both having played 12 games. The Wings need to watch out because the Hawks are quickly gaining up on them and in their only match-up so far this year, Chicago (under Quenneville) narrowly lost 6-5 in a shootout.
The Hawks are poised to press for that top spot, especially with Coach Q behind the bench. They have four of five games left in their current homestand and it's a perfect time to keep closing in on that lead. Starting Sunday, Calgary, Boston, St. Louis, and San Jose will come to town as Chicago continues their attempt to soar to new heights and keep their momentum going.