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Joel Quenneville’s key ingredient for success: Rest

Joel Quenneville said he has begun prioritize rest over practice recent seasons partly out necessity. | Getty Images

Joel Quenneville said he has begun to prioritize rest over practice in recent seasons, partly out of necessity. | Getty Images

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Most regular-season coaching wins with number of Stanley Cups won:

1. Scotty Bowman 1,244 9

2. Al Arbour 782 4

3. Dick Irvin 692 4

4. Joel Quenneville 686 2

5. Pat Quinn 684 0

6. Mike Keenan 672 1

7. Ron Wilson 648 0

8. Ken Hitchcock 629 1

9. Bryan Murray 620 0

10. Jacques Lemaire 617 1

Updated: January 27, 2014 12:44PM

There was a time when Joel Quenneville might have overreacted. When he’d punish and drive his players into the ice after a listless effort, a sloppy performance, a lopsided loss. When he’d drag his players onto the ice mere hours after a game and drill them until their lungs burned and legs ached.

But through 2,463 NHL games as a player, an assistant and a head coach, Quenneville has mellowed. Not during the games, mind you. He’s still fiery as ever behind the bench — arms flailing, voice screaming, mustache bristling, face purpling when a call doesn’t go his way. The Blackhawks boss has moved into fourth place all-time in coaching victories with 686, and he still calls every game “important” and every opponent “dangerous.”

But off the ice, Quenneville has evolved into a true player’s coach. For while the Hawks have laid the foundation of a budding dynasty on talent, skill and depth, there’s one other key ingredient — rest. And it’s Quenneville who has kept the Hawks fresh through one of the most physically and mentally demanding years in NHL history.

The Hawks played 48 games in 99 days last season, then marched through four grueling rounds of the playoffs en route to their second Stanley Cup under Quenneville. They then had a mere 79-day offseason before starting up another highly compressed schedule with an 82-game campaign, the Olympics and another deep playoff run staring them down.

How has Quenneville handled it? By hardly ever making his team practice. During a recent stretch of 34 days in which the Hawks played 19 games, they practiced just three times. None lasted longer than 40 minutes. Morning skates, during which Quenneville and his staff do much of their teaching, last barely 20. Very few teams, if any, spend less time on the ice.

It’s a big reason his players remain fresh and focused, and it’s an even bigger reason they remain devoted to him.

“It’s huge,” Andrew Shaw said. “He played the game, he knows how exhausting it is. It’s hard on the body, and rest always helps. If we keep winning, I’m sure he’ll just keep giving us the days off.”

Quenneville said his 835 games as an NHL defenseman helped form his coaching style but that only in recent seasons has he so heavily prioritized rest over practice — partly out of necessity during two straight compressed seasons, and partly out of discovery, seeing the positive effect it’s had.

“If you’re not playing well in the games when you do give them the time off, I guess you get a pretty good reading off it,” he said. “When we’re getting time off and not practicing between games, let’s make sure we’re ready to pay and ready to play at a good pace.”

The “player’s-coach” style extends beyond just a friendly workload. Patrick Sharp said Quenneville is “approachable” and always available to talk about on-ice or off-ice issues, professional and personal. Sharp also called him “consistent and fair” saying, “You know what you’re going to get from him every day.”

It’s odd to consider how Quenneville’s job was very much in jeopardy a year and a half ago, after the Hawks’ second straight first-round playoff exit. Now, with a second Cup to his credit and his players raving about him, he seems destined to keep climbing the all-time wins chart. Dick Irvin Sr. (692) and Al Arbour (782) are within reach, but Quenneville laughed off the idea he could ever grasp Scotty Bowman’s mind-boggling record of 1,244 regular-season wins.

“It’s a very impressive stat,” Sharp said. “You talk about all the goals and assists that people have in this locker room, but to see the number of coaching wins Joel has — we’re talking all-time greatest coaches. That’s pretty impressive.

“We’re very happy for him, and we’re happy we can help him get there. Playing for Joel is awesome.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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