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September 22, 2009

Joel Quenneville

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. With us we have Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Thanks to Joel for taking the time to join us and answer your questions.
Blackhawks are in Washington tomorrow, and host Minnesota on Friday. Following that game, Chicago will head to Zurich, Switzerland, where they'll meet HC Davos in the Victoria Cup next Monday. Next Wednesday they meet Jokerit in Helsinki, Finland as they make final preparations for the 2009 NHL Premier Helsinki where they'll play back?to?back games with the Florida Panthers on October 2nd, and 3rd to open the National Hockey League regular season.

Q. Two quick questions for you. First of all, what ?? I know you haven't had many games yet, but what's excited you about your team so far in training camp?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: We've had a competitive camp. We're on the ice a lot there last week. We got to play the back?to?back games on the weekend. I think we've got some competition to make a rush. We've got 14 NHL forwards that we feel it's tight. I think internally pushing for more is part of it as well. We've got a couple of guys that are banged up. So we're going to be sorting it out. Not only who is going to be making our team, but who will be playing with who as we go along in the next exhibition games.
So it's been competitive at that end of it. Defense is an area where we've got an opportunity to make our club. But I think the goalie competition is probably the one that's gotten the most scrutiny as far as being Crawford in who is going to make that jump.
We feel both guys are capable of playing regularly in this league. I think the upside of being good goalies is there as well. So I think that's the one that's going to play out and has been getting a lot of attention.

Q. The other question is about going over to play in Europe, over in Helsinki. What interests you? Is there anything that intrigues you more about this experience than anything else?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: It will be fine. We'll get to play two games in Switzerland first. Going over to Finland will be a good opportunity for us. We've got to take advantage of the way we finished last year. A lot of momentum, lot of enthusiasm here in Chicago, and take that with us when we go over there.
But the building sold out right off the bat. They're excited about having their first NHL game in Finland. So I think there's a lot of excitement surrounding the game. It will be a good experience for all our young guys. We want to make sure that we try to get off on to the best start as possible. We place an emphasis on that knowing how good our division is going to be this year. We think it will be a good experience, and we want to use it in the right fashion.

Q. Obviously, Marian Hossa's not going to start the season with you. But when he does come back, what do you see him bringing to the team?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: He's a high?end player. We feel he could be one of the top forwards in the game. I think he gives you size, speed, skill, versatility. You know, I think going into the season we envision him playing with Johnny Toews or Dave Bolland.
But as the options and the places you can play him, power play, penalty kill, key situations is in place. But he's been around the guys. I love his attitude and his approach. He's anxiously awaiting. When he can get back on the ice. But he's progressed well with his shoulder here. I just think he enhances our overall lineup. As coaches, you can't have anymore options with him around. You can put him anywhere and with anybody.

Q. One advantages, too, is he came from Detroit. Detroit's lost him, Samuels, Hudler, and I think you got Kopecky, too from them. Do you see the central division up in the air this year because of that? Do you think it's good that the NHL has a team, a National Team like the Red Wings. It's kind of like the Yankees, you love them but you hate them?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: We can certainly look at the latter part of that comment. We certainly feel our division is going to be as good as there is in the league. With four teams making the playoffs last year, and Nashville right in the race right until the end. We feel that's going to be the norm for the season. And interdivisional games are huge. But the value of the Western Conference being as competitive as it was last year, probably going to be the same way it was this year.
Columbus and Nashville are young, they're going to be improving as is St. Louis. We feel we're young. We've got to improve that way. We know Detroit doesn't go anywhere. They just stay at the top every year.
So we feel, in Nashville we've got a lot of respect for them. We feel it's going to be a great division. Going to be a great race. We hope that their motivation going into the season is, let's try to win that division, because you get a lot of benefits off of that. But it's easier said than done, and so that's what we're looking to do.
But we feel there are going to be a lot of competitive games, lot of competitive nights within our division.

Q. This one might be more easily answered after it's said and done as far as the premier series. What do you think is the best advice you've been given so far as to how to make this as easy a transition as possible for your team, going there and coming back?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: It's not to change too much how your regular routine is. Being practice times, being your approach. You don't have to change too many things. We're going to be playing on NHL ice, and NHL rules and everything like that. So I think the approach is enjoy the excitement around the game. Use it more like we had some exposure last year with the outdoor classic which was a great experience. You know, we had some big playoff games. It gets a lot of attention.
Our guys should benefit from their experiences last year. But I think it will be a good and fun experience as well. But we don't want to deviate too much from the regular routine of game days and non?game days practicing, and approaching. We've got business to do. We've got four games in six nights. So we're going to be busy over there. And business?like approach is how we want to handle it.

Q. Couple quick questions about the Victoria Cup. You mentioned there's still a lot of competition left in your camp. I would imagine a little that would carry over to Europe. How do you balance that from wanting to put on a good show in the Victoria Cup, and representing the NHL and trying to win that game. Also, did you see last year's game? What were your thoughts on that?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: I didn't see the game. But I know that it's a competitive game. I think any game be it preseason or these exhibition games overseas, I think in the regular season game. I think no matter what type of a lineup you have out there, there's a lot of incentive across the board for players looking to make your lineup. Players looking for more quality ice time. Everybody wants to do well. Everybody wants to have success. As a coach, you're playing to win every hockey game.
So I think we want to make sure we continue to instill good habits and winning habits as well. So I think that's the purpose of, and incentive of trying to win the games always in place.
But I think that we're getting down to the short strokes here. I think getting your team on top of its game, prepared to play the first game of the season, I think most NHL teams have a real good dress rehearsal their last exhibition game and usually go with their lineup they anticipate starting with. And they give it that type of attention, which we're going to do.

Q. You look at kind of the last couple of years and how some of these teams have gone to Europe and come back and struggled a little bit. How concerned are you about that? Who have you sought out? Have you talked to some of these other coaches that have gone over there and done that?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: The Rangers got off to an amazing start. The other teams, I don't think anybody struggled right at the start. I have heard more than once the track record of the coaches that have went over last year.
But Pittsburgh at the end of the day were the champions. So I think that historically you can look at the good and the bad of it. And I think that you've got to look at it as a positive experience. I think you play the back?to?back games. They're important games. We always emphasize the starts of seasons, and evaluate how that sets you up throughout the year. That's all going to be in place.
But I think it's ?? I don't find too many or any negatives of this experience. So I think it's something that we should be excited about and look forward to taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity as players and be a part of the first game over in Finland.
So that's the way I look at it. People say you're tired, this and that. We don't play until Thursday after we get home. We get five days off from playing Detroit. They're in the same boat playing over in Sweden. So I don't foresee any excuses of that being, you know, baggage going forward in the season. I think it's a positive and take advantage of it.

Q. After coaching Jonathan Toews for a year, what growth did you see in his season? Kind of a slow start, and he's leading his team in the playoffs. What did you observe from your perspective?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: He had a tremendous year. I thought he just got better and better every day. He's a great competitor. Very proud guy. I think he was a little uncomfortable with his start. Lot of responsibility being named captain right out of the gate. I thought he handled that role extremely well.
But he's one of those guys that works on his game. He wants to be the best he can. He places a lot of emphasis on working out off the ice. He got stronger. He improved his defensive part more so down in his own end. But I think he needed to spear head the production he had.
I think he went a dozen games or so before he scored his first goal. But that helped him. He's always scored. Always been productive. And I just think he's comfortable in the situation he is this year. The one thing about Johnny, he's always getting better. He works on anything he can do to better himself. It's an important year for him. And hopefully he can get off to a strong start because we know how important he is to our team.

Q. Maybe a bigger picture question for you. With the season so close, you look around and a lot of different people are handicapping the league. I'm wondering personally when you look around who you see as the other teams to beat, maybe, and why?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: All the West, there's a ton of teams that are better. You know, you look at the teams that played in the playoffs last year, Detroit, Calgary and Vancouver. We know they feel they're at least as good as they were last year and improved themselves. So I think that's competition right there. Anaheim is a team that, you know, they might have gotten younger and quicker through their transition over the summer. I think the non playoff teams are the teams that you've got to give a lot of respect to, knowing that's how tough the Western Conference is. You know, Dallas, you don't think anybody has them on their radar that they can get right back to where they were a couple years ago.
I'm just thinking just in our own division. St. Louis is better. Columbus is better. Nashville, I have a lot of respect for. Pittsburgh on the other side is an elite team. I think Philly, and Prongs is going to be making a big difference there in Philly. I just think this year, with how close it was last year, it was unbelievably close. And I'm going to say this year's going to be just like it.
So it's great for the league. Parody at the top end is right there. But I don't think anybody is clearly better than anybody this year. I think that's how close it's going to be. I didn't mention San Jose, they could be the best of the whole group. But I think on our side, there are a number of teams that all should get consideration to be should get consideration to win the conference, but winning your own division is a heck of an achievement this year.

Q. Just following up on that question, what do you tell your teams the goal is? Is the goal to win your division? Win the conference? Make the playoffs? For the regular season, what is the goal of the Chicago Blackhawks?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: Haven't told them yet. We're going to have that meeting going into our first regular season game when we're over in Finland. You know, but it may have been mentioned. But I think when we're looking at a realistic goal this year as a team. We want to look to try to win our division as the achievement and their objective going into the year. If you can be ahead of Detroit, you've accomplished a lot. And we've got a lot of respect for everybody in our division.
So it's going to be a very competitive year. We feel we're going to get challenged more than we were last year. And so we've got to be expecting with a younger team to improve regularly here. And the younger guys are getting better and stronger, and being consistent is what we're going to have to be all year long. That's basically our motivation going into the year. And then if we can accomplish that, you know, a lot of benefits come from that, like I mentioned.

Q. I'm just wondering, you know, you said four games in six days. It's going to be a busy time for you. But is there anything off the ice that you're looking forward to on this trip to Switzerland and Helsinki?
JOEL QUENNEVILLE: We have a couple of events that we have to go to. And I think those will be, you know, socially that might be the extent of it. Because we're flying here right after the game on Friday and we'll practice when we get in the next day practice on Sunday, and then we play back?to?back games and we're on a plane to Helsinki for two days and playing two days, two games in two nights. I just think you get a little closer, you get a little flavor of the feeling of what's going on. The excitement and the environment. Knowing that they're excited to be in Zurich, and they're excited in Helsinki.
So I'm sure we'll get to taste that and feel that. And the best we can be a part of that is something that we'll look forward to. But at the same time we have to balance that. The priority is making sure we're well prepared for the games.

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