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Quenneville: Gut-check time for Hawks

QUENNEVILLe IN THE PLAYOFFS

Season Team Playoff result

1996-97 Blues Lost in first round

1997-98 Blues Lost in second round

1998-99 Blues Lost in second round

1999-00 Blues Lost in first round

2000-01 Blues Lost in conference final

2001-02 Blues Lost in second round

2002-03 Blues Lost in first round

2003-04 Blues Fired after 61 games

2004-05 Lockout

2005-06 Avalanche Lost in second round

2006-07 Avalanche Didn’t qualify

2007-08 Avalanche Lost in second round

2008-09 HAWKS Lost in conference final

2009-10 HAWKS Won Stanley Cup

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



EDMONTON, Alberta — The drills — mainly the intensified and exhausting pace of them — told the story. It was time to address the Blackhawks’ desire and willingness to work for victories.

What was considered a ‘‘long’’ season, with ample time and opportunity for the Hawks to turn things, has turned into a 29-game sprint.

Time is no longer a luxury for the Hawks. Efforts such as their uninspiring performance Monday against the Calgary Flames will result in a long summer.

‘‘That urgency has to come out right now,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘We’re in a situation where we have to be disappointed with where we’re at, but we created it. [Paying] more attention to how we compete and how we battle can help our overall game.’’

Hence, the intense practice he put his team through Tuesday at Rexall Place, where the Hawks face the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Many Hawks dropped to their knees or were slouched over during practice. The message was obvious.

‘‘That standard of how you play and battle every night has got to be in place,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘That’s probably not the case this year. [Monday] night is a good example of you get what you deserve.’’

For Quenneville, finding the right buttons to push has been a struggle. Last season, the Hawks prided themselves on their overwhelming desire and on how difficult they were for opponents at home and on the road.

They haven’t shown that effort and level of play consistently this season.

Head games

It’s up to Quenneville to find the spark or send the message that revitalizes the Hawks for good and puts them in a better position for a playoff berth. He’s putting pressure on himself to find it.

‘‘As a coach, that’s my No. 1 responsibility,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘As a team, we want to make sure there’s a standard game in, game out [and] there’s a predictable level of compete. .  .  . I absolutely take it personally.’’

There are plenty of excuses, such as roster turnover, the Hawks and Quenneville could use to explain why the team entered play Tuesday in 11th place in the Western Conference. But regardless of which players they lost, the Hawks should be better than a team that has 58 points in 53 games.

‘‘To say that we don’t have the guys in here who are capable of [playing hard and tough], that’d be wrong,’’ winger Patrick Kane said.

The biggest hurdle for the Hawks isn’t so much what opponents are doing, it’s themselves. They tend to play to their potential against top teams, such as the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings, while playing poorly against bad teams, such as the 16-victory Oilers, who have beaten them twice this season.

So the focus shouldn’t be on who is gone. It should be on why the players on the team — from the stars to the grinders — aren’t competing hard every night.

‘‘We’re not playing well enough to win hockey games,’’ defenseman Brian Campbell said. ‘‘It’s not easy winning hockey games. For us, I don’t know if we expect it’s going to be too easy to just go out there and win games.’’

Trust in Q

Quenneville signed a three-year contract extension in September, and his track record will tell you he will tap into whatever the Hawks need in time for them to make the playoffs.

Not including 2003-04, the season he was replaced by the St. Louis Blues after 61 games, Quenneville has coached all of his teams but one — the Colorado Avalanche in 2006-07 — to the playoffs.

‘‘The ingredients are in place to nail it [this year],’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘As a staff and as a team, that’s our objective.’’

Quenneville’s line combinations and pairings might come off as baffling at times, but he has earned the benefit of the doubt. Remember, it was his line changes in the Stanley Cup finals last season against the Philadelphia Flyers that resulted in an ineffective Chris Pronger and Hawks victories in Games 5 and 6.

Line changes are nothing new for the Hawks, and there should be a different lineup in place when they play the Oilers tonight.

Tuesday also wasn’t the first time this season Quenneville was determined to send a message at practice. He used hard one-on-one puck-possession drills after earlier defeats.

‘‘I’m not doubting the character and the personality of our locker room,’’ captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘But we shouldn’t have to have wake-up calls from the coaching staff. It should always come from within our locker room.’’

It’s about time for a real response.

‘‘[Quenneville] demands a lot, and he’s fair,’’ defenseman Duncan Keith said. ‘‘There’s no reason why we can’t repay that with hard work.’’



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