Quenneville impressed

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

CHICAGO -- As players, they felt responsible.

Had the Chicago Blackhawks won their first four games of the season, perhaps Denis Savard would still be their coach.

Or maybe not.

It's difficult to believe the decision to replace Savard with Joel Quenneville was made simply on the basis of the team's performance through the first two weeks of the season.

Regardless, the Blackhawks are warming up to their new skipper.

"It's still pretty early to notice any major changes, but there is a different attitude in this dressing room," said Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp. "We believe that we can win every game we play. We know the expectations are high on us as a team and as an organization, and we're comfortable with that.

"Joel has a lot of experience and definitely has all our respect behind the bench and we feel like he's going to lead us to the playoffs."

Quenneville, who coached the Colorado Avalanche for the previous three seasons, was hired by the Blackhawks as a scout over the summer.

Last night against the Edmonton Oilers was his third game behind the bench.

"I can only commend the guys on how well they've responded and how receptive they have been," Quenneville said.

"Coming in you don't know a lot, but I've been impressed with the quality of the people - and I'm not just talking about hockey.

"Right from the get-go it's been great, the response and how they've competed in the first two games has been outstanding."

Led by Sharp, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks are expected to challenge for a playoff spot this season.

The trio is a big reason the city is excited about hockey again. The Blackhawks tripled their season-ticket base from last year.

Yet they stumbled out of the gate, lost their first three games and the decision to axe Savard was made.

Ironically, he was fired after leading the Blackhawks to their first win of the year.

"We knew something was going on the day we walked in," said Kane. "Some guys took it hard, some guys thought it was a good thing. For the team, overall, in general, I hope it will be a good thing in the long run. Hopefully, we can move forward."

Quenneville hasn't come in and revamped the entire system. The changes he's made so far are subtle - but he's gotten the message across.

"It's just little things on the bench," Kane said. "He always has two lines ready to go, which is a little different than I'm used to. The practices are maybe a little bit more up-tempo as well, you're always moving.

"It's just small things like that so far. I'm sure he'll change more things down the line in the future.

"For right now, he's telling us to go out, play and use our instincts, which is good for us. We're in the NHL, we're all good enough to be here and we all have those instincts."

Savard took over the team after Trent Yawney was fired early in the 2006-07 campaign. Last season the former Blackhawks legend got the team to within three points of a playoff spot.

"It was a shock; it's never fun when that happens," Sharp said.

"As a player you take a little bit of responsibility. You look at yourself in the mirror and ask what you could have done more to help him out. It's tough.

"But when the organization makes that decision, they have the team's best interest in mind. As players, we have to support that and move forward."

Heading into last night's game, the Blackhawks had earned three of a possible four points under Quenneville, with a shootout loss and a win.

"I think one thing with us is that you kind of feel responsible for the situation," Kane said. "For some players it was tough. It was tough on me. I didn't really play that well through the first four games, then the coach who was so good to me in my first year gets fired. You feel a little bit responsible for it.

"It's unfortunate that happened after the first four games. But we have to move forward, we have a great coach right now; he really knows what he's talking about."


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