Joel Quenneville wanted to make it clear: he did not take up the job as Florida Panthers coach there He wanted to be closer to the many golf courses in South Florida,
"Oh, I'm a big hacker, not a golfer," he said recently with a wink. "I play but I don't play golf."
The golfer on the Panthers is Dale Tallon, president of the ice hockey department and general manager, who hired Quenneville in April to get the team out of mediocrity.
Quenneville is almost in second place on the career winner list 900 In his 22 years as head coach and his Chicago Blackhawks, he won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
But he was fired 15 times last season, with the Blackhawks occupying last place last year.
Quenneville, 61, still wanted to train, and the Panthers needed his help.
Since moving into the Stanley Cup final in 1996 and losing to the Colorado Avalanche in four gamesThe Panthers have just qualified for the playoffs four times and were eliminated in the first round every four times,
The Panthers most recently appeared in the playoffs of 2016when they lost to the islanders six games, The Panthers' home visits rose to 15,584, 24th in the national team this year, but fell to 13,261 last season, ranking 30th out of 31 teams.
But Quenneville said he took the job because he believed the Panthers created a foundation for success. Four players, including the elite center Aleksander Barkov and striker Jonathan Huberdeau, scored at least 28 goals last season.
"It was an opportunity to join a team that has many advantages to look for in a team that has a chance of winning," said Quenneville. “They had some young people with high-end talent who had the ability to lead properly. They are all about to get pretty close to the playoffs in recent years. Here we go. "
Quenneville added that the Blackhawks were in a similar position when he arrived in Chicago in 2008. "We're at this stage. Let's see how good we can be," he said. "I was lucky enough to be in Chicago when they were there when I got there. I have a feeling that this team has a real chance. "
From 2005 to 2009, Tallon was general manager of the Blackhawks and helped put together the team that Quenneville brought to the three cups. He said Quenneville's hiring was a message to fans that the franchise was committed to profit.
"You are still learning the game," Tallon said of the Panthers. “Our players don't know what is important. He is."
Devils coach John Hynes said after a recent loss to the Panthers, Florida was similar to Quenneville's Chicago teams, and defenders were moving around to flood the offensive zone. An experienced defender, Keith Yandle, said the Panthers had tried under Quenneville to develop into a puck-owned team.
"With the guys in this room, it's more beneficial for us to have the puck," said Yandle. "And if you have the puck and can play with it, it's fun."
Strategy is only part of the overhaul – and probably not even the most important part. In July, the Panthers signed two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, a $ 70 million contract for seven years. The most critical step, however, was to quit Quenneville.
defender MacKenzie Weegar said he was "hit a bit by the star" when Quenneville started practicing.
"We know that he has a lot of experience," says a pleased Evgenii Dadonov said. "We trust him."
Vincent Trocheck, the veteran's center, said he was "thrilled" when he heard that Quenneville had been hired.
"He comes to the ice rink and is serious," said Trocheck. "If we lost, it is not just" OK ", we will wear it on our chin." It's "It can't happen again. Go out in the next game, in the next phase, in the next shift, with urgency." He brings a lot of intensity, and that's something that is particularly important with a young team like ours is. "
Hockey players like to say that they listen to all of their coaches, but after leading three Stanley Cup champions, Quenneville has paid special attention to them.
"If you have the best coach ever, there will be no question," said Yandle. "It's his way. It's a good thing in our room."
Trocheck said, "Every time you see a man with his background and lineage, you know what you're getting – you know he's a good coach." He won with many different players. He was in Chicago for a long time. You respected him as soon as he entered the room. "
The Panthers started the season slowly, losing four of their first five games, two of them in street shootouts. she After a 2-7 loss on Monday in Vancouver it was 5-3: 4.
After surviving a 4-1 deficit in the second game period against the Devils on October 14, Quenneville said at his post-game press conference: “We have a learning curve and we'll learn more about it as we evolve here situations. "
The new Quenneville players admit that they are still learning about him personally. As quiet as Quenneville stands behind the bench and his piercing blue-eyed gaze can be penetrating, the Panthers are as understanding, positive, enthusiastic and supportive.
"He is full of energy," said Weegar. "He likes it when everyone is excited and having fun with each other. I think he will continue to develop us whether we have played for 10 years or a year. I think he will make everyone a better player."