SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - His signature mustache goes right along with his career National Hockey League wins — all 890 of them. Now Joel Quenneville is ready to embrace what could be his biggest professional challenge as the Florida Panthers’ new head coach.
Quenneville, 60, is known for his fiery and intense personality, so to break the ice, 7Sports brought him a Gulfstream Racing cap.
The coach, a fan of horse racing, approved of the swag.
His plans for the Panthers? Take them down the stretch to contend for a Cup.
“I love it. I think that’s the passion that you gotta have here,” he said. “You’ve got to feel — you can’t feel good after a loss and accept that, ‘It’s just another loss,’ or, ‘Just missing the playoffs. That’s acceptable.'”
Quenneville’s résumé speaks for itself: four Stanley Cups, three as head coach, with the second highest number of career wins in NHL history.
The Panthers have missed the playoffs for the past three seasons and have only made the post-season twice in the last 18 seasons. Quenneville hopes to alter this trend for the better.
“People might say that the atmosphere here is too easy, too soft, and that players get a little bit complacent in that type of setting or that type of environment,” he said, “but when we come in this room here, we’re coming to work here. We’re all business here. We want whatever we can to better ourselves as individuals and as a team, so let’s get to work.”
Quenneville, who also goes by the nickname “Coach Q,” becomes excited knowing he has inherited a core group of players, five of whom have had 20 or more goals last season.
“We have the right ingredients to start with. We have some top young players,” he said. “We’ve all got to improve as we go along here. These young kids have got to go from the level they’re at right now, I think they have another level they’ve got to get to, and I think that’s going to make us better.”
There’s also the goal-tending situation. Future Hall of Famer Roberto Luongo said he wants to come back, even as a backup.
“I got a ton of respect for Lou. As you get older in your career, things can possibly change, but not making the final decisions,” said Quenneville. “To me, it’s up to the player, what he wants to do, and we’ll do what’s best for him and what he wants to do best for the organization.”
Now, as he leads the Panthers on what will hopefully be a path to the post-season, Quenneville said he is ready to take in this challenge.
“I think I’m fair. I think I like to communicate with the guys,” he said. “I think we make it competitive, where you get rewarded for how you play, how you compete. I think there’s a certain standard of expectations.”
Quenneville has a five-year deal with the Panthers. The team’s owner, Vinny Viola, has approved a request by Coach Q and general manager Dale Tallon, a close friend, to get the players they want this coming season.
Free agency starts July 1.
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