CHICAGO -- When his Blackhawks team handed Joel Quenneville the game puck after they secured his 600th win, a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday, he only had one response for them.
“It means I’m getting old,” he said.
Maybe so, but Quenneville hasn’t lost a beat as he became the second fastest coach -- behind another Hawks employee, Scotty Bowman -- to win 600 games.
“I’ve been with some good teams, and some great organizations, and some great players and coaches to be around,” Quenneville said after the game. “I’ve been fortunate in a lot of ways, and I’m in a great spot right here, very content, got a great team to work with. They’re [the wins] all meaningful, they all feel good.”
Quenneville became just the 10th coach to accomplish the feat and maybe it’s appropriate it came on a night when his defense stepped up. Quenneville played the position for more than a decade in the league, and his strength is dealing with blue-liners.
“He taught me a lot, especially with having an active stick and stick on puck,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “I listen to everything he says and I’ve learned a lot from him so far. It’s not for nothing he has six hundred wins. It’s a major accomplishment. We’re glad to have him in Chicago. We respect him a lot as a coach and a person.”
Hjalmarsson’s first goal of the season helped Quenneville to No. 600 while Steve Montador added a tally and the entire defense rallied around the loss of Brent Seabrook early in the night. All of it helped the Hawks to their fifth straight win and the magic number for their coach.
“I think he keeps things on an even keel,” Jonathan Toews said. “He shows emotion when it’s necessary, he cares. He holds everyone accountable, including himself. He feels guys out pretty well too. He treats us as adults, as professionals and lets us play our game. The respect is mutual there.”
“Every game is different,” Quenneville said. “You just have to deal with the situations and evaluate where your team is at and why you’re winning or why you lose. I’m very fortunate to be around top guys, good teams and good people.”
Most if not all fans would feel the same way -- very fortunate -- about having the coach that helped break a 49-year championship drought. But in true hockey coach mode Quenneville isn’t satisfied.
“I still say we’ve got to be improving in certain parts of our game,” he said. “I don’t think we should be satisfied with where we’re at.”
A coach is always coaching.