Finals confirm status of coaches
Cup winners Julien, Quenneville shrug off speculation, maintain excellence
CHICAGO -- It is uncanny, really, the symmetry that exists in the storylines for both head coaches in the Stanley Cup finals.
Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins and Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup winners, of course, and both have been the subject of firing rumors once or twice during their otherwise stellar runs with their current teams.
Oh, and they've got another thing in common: They're both excellent at their craft.
"One of those guys is going to win a second Cup,'' Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock told ESPN.com Friday. "To me, that's unbelievable. No disrespect to Scotty Bowman, but this is a totally different world than when he was doing it. I'm jealous as hell one of them will win a second Cup.''
Indeed, either Julien or Quenneville will be the first two-Cup winner in the NHL's salary-cap era, a distinction that will set them apart from their current peers.
But either way, their reputations are already forged around the league.
"Both guys provide structure with compassion,'' St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told ESPN.com. "Players really trust both guys and the information they provide, they really believe in their style of play and do a great job of selling it to the players. Both guys handle the star players really well and get them to buy in. Both of them have become long-term guys because they bring a real structure to everyone: staff, players, trainers.''
Both can be tough on their players, but there's a fairness attached to it.
"I've enjoyed playing for him,'' Bruins winger Daniel Paille said of his coach Friday. "He's a coach who cares about players and he's a guy that can adjust to different personalities. It goes a long way in a relationship if you're a players' coach and we're really fortunate to have one.''
Said Chicago Blackhawks center Dave Bolland when asked about Quenneville: "Great coach to play for, a players' coach. He gives us the days off that we need so we're rested for games. Gives us a boot in the butt and lets us know what we're doing wrong. And he helps us with our game. He's turned me into the player I am.''
Strangely, for two coaches who are so popular and successful, the subject of their job security has nevertheless come up from time to time.
In Julien's case, it was a hot topic in the first round of the 2011 playoffs when Montreal took a 2-0 series lead. A Stanley Cup seven weeks later ended that talk. But it was a renewed topic again early in these playoffs, heading into Game 7 versus Toronto in the first round, with some suggesting Julien might be canned if the Bruins lost to the Leafs.
Baloney, says Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
"You shouldn't believe the rumors, because they weren't true,'' Chiarelli told ESPN.com Friday. "This is saying it the wrong way, but you get tired of defending one of the top two or three coaches in the league. But that's the way it is in Boston. I don't want to make a big deal of it. When it becomes white noise, it is still noise.''
As such, Chiarelli came out before the Eastern Conference finals and said that Julien would be his coach as long as he was GM in Boston.It doesn't get any clearer than that.
"I feel strongly about him," said Chiarelli. "For whatever reason, it became a big topic kind of in the peripheral media. I felt strongly about it. That's as strong a statement as I could make, so I made it.''
As for Quenneville, his job status was a hot topic in these parts last season.
In an interview with colleague Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com in March 2012, Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz admitted that while he had no intention of firing Quenneville, he did talk about the coach's job with GM Stan Bowman during the team's nine-game losing streak last season.
"The only thing I had to ask was 'Did the players quit on the coach?'" Wirtz told Isaacson. "It's the only thing I asked Stan, and Stan said 'No, they haven't quit on him.' So you wait for another day and it works itself out."
Nice business this coaching racket, eh?
"It's a tough business," Quenneville said Friday. "We all know the tough parts of it. Job security, [it] is not the safest career choice in the world. But I think we know going in with the challenges that you can face. We're in a winning business.
"When we look back, we had to change the whole makeup of our team. Basically half the team after winning, it was kind of a new team for a couple years there," Quenneville said. "I thought we progressed over the course of a few years there.''
But here they both are, Julien and Quenneville, winners and survivors all the same.
"I think we have pretty similar personalities, as well,'' Julien said Friday. "I know he's worked hard. I know the same thing here with him, his situation. I mean, I'm going to tell you the same thing I said in Boston. These are two of many cities in this league that adores their sport, supports their sport, live and die for it.
"They want a championship team every year. They demand that. When things don't go well, sometimes the emotions get the better of people, whether it's fans, media, whatever. You have to live with that.
"I think to me, it's always been something that's part of our job description, to be able to handle that stuff," Julien continued. "What you do is you go and work your way through the challenges that you have in your dressing room, not the challenges you have outside of it.
"I think Joel has done the same thing. He's approached it that way. I've seen nothing but a guy that is resilient in his work. I know he's a hard worker. He puts in the time. That's why he's won a Stanley Cup and he's here again this year.''