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Quenneville, Panthers players agree: Effort level must be better

Systems have been learned, now they must be executed to perfection

Florida Panthers right wing Brett Connolly and New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield fight for the puck during an NHL game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.
Florida Panthers right wing Brett Connolly and New York Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield fight for the puck during an NHL game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE, Fla. – There is no arguing that Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville knows what he's doing.

The Panthers new bench boss has won more games in the NHL than all but one other coach, he's a recipient of the Jack Adams Award, which recognizes the league's top skipper each season, and, oh yea, he's won the Stanley Cup three times.

When it comes to hockey coaches, you can't do better than Q.

But even with all the success and accolades, Quenneville has maintained his reputation as a player's coach.

If you're playing for Q, you can rest assured that your coach has your back.

He doesn't rip players to the media or embarrass them on the bench, with cameras rolling and thousands watching. If Quenneville has an issue with a player, or players, it's dealt with quickly, efficiently, and in private.

Sometimes, however, it's a little easier to tell when Coach Q wants more from his team.

Lately, it's become more evident that Quenneville feels the effort level from the Panthers, as a whole, needs to be better.

"We've had some recent defeats with (our) compete level not at the all-out level, and I think that's what we're looking to reestablish," he said earlier this week. "You've got to give yourself a chance to win hockey games, and that's why you have to play at a certain standard, and that's all-out."

All-out. Empty the tank. 100% effort.

That's the message from Quenneville, and it's clear that it was received loud and clear in the locker room.

"In the system, it definitely requires a higher level of competitiveness," Panthers defenseman Josh Brown said. "If we come out in games maybe a little flat, like we did against Tampa (on Monday), the systems won't work if we're not competing."

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville watches during an NHL game against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019.
Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville watches during an NHL game against the Boston Bruins, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Earlier in the season, Florida's inconsistent play was often blamed on the implementation of Quenneville's defensive systems.

Well, it's now been over three months since the team first gathered for training camp.

Not knowing how to play Q's way isn't an excuse that's going to fly anymore, and the players are the first to admit that.

“It’s not only just knowing the systems and being consistent, it’s doing it to the 100% capability that we can do it,” said alternate captain Keith Yandle. "If you look at the games that we’ve lost, we’ve executed the systems, but we haven’t done it, whether it’s top speed or just good enough, to help us win games.

"The systems are in place, and now it's all about being consistent and doing it 100%."

Said Brown: "We all know the systems now, that's not an excuse anymore. We know what we're supposed to be doing. We've just got to make sure we tighten it up and make sure we're competing for sixty minutes every game."

Granted, it may sound simple enough to play harder and faster. It sure seems like a reasonable request.

Unfortunately, that's just not realistic.

There is a difference between learning how to do something and being able to do it flawless, at full-speed, without hesitation.

That's the stage that Florida has reached in the application and execution of Quenneville's style of play.

"I think it's just muscle memory now," said Panthers winger Frank Vatrano. "He wants us to play hard and compete. I think that's the biggest thing, and everything else takes care of itself. It's just making sure we're playing within our systems and making sure we're executing it right, that's when we're going to be a good hockey team."

Could getting the team's compete level to rise be the missing piece of the puzzle?

That's something we'll likely learn as December turns to January, but Quenneville thinks it will absolutely make a difference.

"I find that when you're competitive and you're playing at that right level, systems all look like they're efficient, everybody looks like they're in the right places, we're moving together, we're keeping the puck, we're first to pucks, and when it erodes, it's like positionally, it looks like it's falling apart and it's not cohesive," Quenneville explained. "I think it's just that standard we've got to make sure we're looking to establish, game in and game out.

“Whether it’s your partners, whether it’s your linemates, whether it’s the forwards, defense, us as coaches, I think we all have to be knowing that’s a level that we’re looking for, (and to) sustain. That’s how you turn into a good team, when you start to expect it from one another, shift in and shift out.”


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