The Blackhawks cleaned out their lockers, had their final physicals and held individual meetings Thursday at the United Center.
Here is a transcript of coach Joel Quenneville’s final meeting with the media of the 2010-11 season:
On whether the Hawks were battling a significant amount of injuries:
“It sounds like we’re making excuses there. We saw late in the season with [Dave Bolland] and [Patrick Sharp] … But guys are probably going to be having the same of type of issues that they’re dealing with during the regular season. We lost [Tomas Kopecky] and [Bryan Bickell] in that series, which didn’t help. We have our physicals later, but I don’t think there’s anything we didn’t know about.”
On whether they were on the verge of reaching their stride in the playoffs:
“I think [Bolland] helped us in that series. He gave us a chance to get ourselves back into it. We started playing the playoff hockey at the pace that was necessary to be competitive. All of a sudden, we got a little excitement in our team game as well. That’s something we were kind of nipping at all year long to get to that next level where we can be a top team and prove that we are the best team in the league. Whether it was that eight-game run or parts of this Vancouver series, we felt we were making inroads there.
But I think we had some inconsistencies in our game this year, and I think we were walking that tight rope all year long. You look at a cat with nine lives. We lose the last game against Detroit, we get lucky with the Minnesota-Dallas game and we played basically four games in a row. So that’s six lives right there that we flirted with all year. It’s probably what we didn’t do earlier on in the regular season to put us in position to have a little bit more control of where we have to be heading into the playoffs.”
On the Hawks’ motivations and mentality for next season:
“I expect the excitement level to be there right from the beginning of the season. The starts of the year are critical with how the whole year is going be … the outcome of your whole season. We know this year going into it, it’s different. Last summer, we made a lot of changes in not a lot of time. This year, we’ll probably get a better evaluation and assessment of our team. Last year, we had to make a lot of decisions on money factors.
Hopefully, we’ll see how we can fix our team in certain areas. But there’s a lot of things at the end of the day, we found out about some guys that can make us a better team going forward here, which that depth can help us. The start of the year and the guys’ attitude of knowing how we exited the season, there’s got to be an appetite that when we begin the season that has to be in place knowing it’s a very important part of your year being ready to start because it sets you up for what happens in the playoffs.
Whether Marian Hossa can still be an elite producer:
“We think it’s there for sure. He had some real good stretches. I think he had two or three bouts of injuries. As he returned, it took him a little bit of time to get back to that pace we saw him at that elite level at the start of the season that maybe [was] the biggest impact a player had early in our first 10 games here. Everybody has their stretches where they’re playing well, but I think Hossa has a lot of good hockey in him. He’s a top-end guy. His numbers don’t always reflect the role and how he contributes to our team game.
Regarding the areas in the lineup the Hawks can improve:
I think our middle is always an area. We felt we were depleted this year. When [Bolland] goes down and sometimes [Sharp] wasn’t playing there, we had a couple of guys we were looking at. Then [Ryan Johnson] came into our lineup and Jake Dowell. Over the course of the year, the inexperience there we got exposed a little bit. That’s always a very important position to fill. The young [Marcus] Kruger kid gives us something to look forward to in the future. You miss a guy like [Bolland] or [Toews] and there is a lot of responsibility on these guys. Jonny, himself, he had a pretty remarkable year. But a lot of times, there was a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.
On whether he played Duncan Keith too much and if Keith could use the summer off:
There are some guys who can definitely use the rest, whether it was the guys who were the Olympians from the prior year, a short summer and the expectations to be at the same level to start the season. These guys are pros. The demands of what they went through that’s the one thing we were aware of going into the season. That the Stanley Cup hangover could be around, I’m not going to deny that it didn’t slow us down.
At certain parts of the year, certain guys had some real good stretches. Some guys did they recapture their form from the prior year? There is certainly a level we expect them to get back to. I’m not talking in specific cases. But as a staff, our job is to max out each and every player. That’s what we’re hoping for. This year, it was a roller-coaster rider. That’s our motivation going forward. We get that appetite back, get a good rest and be excited about being the best players we can be.
On the new guys feeling pressure to fill the voids left from offseason departures:
In each and every case, whether they were trying to make the NHL or get an opportunity to play regularly and try to get higher-quality ice time, I think every certain guy that was new to the team was at a different stage of their careers. Everybody had a different case. They are part of our team. They were happy to be in that situation. It’s a great place to play. It’s a great organization and there’s a chance to a win championship. I’m not sure they put that type of pressure on themselves. As a staff, we tried to make sure they’re a part of the team, that they fit in and try to get these guys to max out as well.”
On how difficult it is to repeat:
The league is so competitive. When you look at how close first rounds are and how tough to win in our league is, I think we found that out over 82 games and we got matched up against the top team in the league. The closeness of the teams, in the first rounds of the playoffs, you saw four Game 7s, you see two teams go down in overtime in a Game 7. Anything can happen and you need a lot things to go your way.
Last year, I look back at how fortunate we were to come out of the first round against Nashville. That’s how tough it is our league. You need a lot things to go your way. That’s why I felt if we found a way to beat Vancouver that would have created a hurdle that we overcame and, all of a sudden, I felt we were ready to take off. But it’s easy to stand up here and say that today.
If the Hawks need to make changes in order to be tougher to play against:
There’s something to that extent. Whether it’s team toughness or across the board [being] tougher to play against is whether we address it as personnel as a team that’s an area I think we’d like to make sure [where] we’re definitely harder to play against.”
On assistant Mike Haviland getting a head-coaching position:
I was in the position before. I think as a coach you always want to try if there’s an opportunity to move ahead. We’d wish him well in that area because there are some opportunities. But he’s good around here too. We’ll see what happens.”
Regarding what he and the Hawks would do differently in the offseason if they win the Stanley Cup again:
“That’s a tough question to answer. I just hope we have to worry about that again. You win a championship and it was 49 years in the making, I think everybody has the right and the privilege to enjoy everything about it. I don’t think that had anything to do with what happened this season.
On expectations for next season:
We should all expect more from each other as players and as a staff. The importance of the regular season, we feel our division is going to be tougher than it was this year and we saw how competitive it was from the outset. Our conference is only going to get better as well. So we know that the regular season is very important and trying to be the best team right from the outset has got to be our motivation.
We talk about being in that playoff race from Game 1 to 82. It definitely takes a little bit out of your team. We found out in the playoffs that level of getting into that — is there another level that you have to get to? And maybe it look us too long to recapture that playoff pace. As a group, let’s make sure we should expect more from each other. At the end of the day, there are certain stretches of our season where we left something out there. At the end of the day, I would have to say that’s correct.