CHICAGO – These days, Tyson Nash can laugh about how Joel Quenneville used to intimidate him.
Nash was in his 20s when he played left wing for Quenneville as a member of the St. Louis Blues. The current TV color analyst for the Phoenix Coyotes caught up with his former coach before Friday’s game.
“When I talk to him now, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re the nicest guy in the world. Why was I so scared of you?’ ” joked Nash, a fan favorite who racked up 673 penalty minutes in 374 NHL games with St. Louis and Phoenix. “But he’s just got that intimidation factor.”
Quenneville’s gruffness continues to produce results. He is 12th on the NHL’s all-time list with 520 wins, and the Hawks have gone 82-37-15 since he took control five games into the 2008-09 season.
“He’s the best coach I ever had, by far,” Nash said. “I think he’s one of the best bench coaches. He really has a knack for who’s going and who’s not.
“Players love playing for him,” Nash said. “They get rewarded if they play well. For me as a player, if you were working, he didn’t care whether you were Pierre Turgeon or you were Tyson Nash. If you were playing well, you were going to play.”
Sigh of relief: A few Hawks players might sleep a little easier this week knowing that the team no longer has a chance to acquire elite goal-scorer Ilya Kovalchuk.
The New Jersey Devils acquired Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday.
The Hawks were rumored to have interest in the forward, who likely would have cost several young players.
“Now, seeing him go to that team, maybe sometimes guys can relax a bit more and play,” Hawks forward Kris Versteeg said. “But you never know what’s going to happen.”
Lofty company: A recent losing skid overshadowed Duncan Keith’s latest achievement.
Keith, 26, became the second Hawks defenseman in the past 14 seasons to reach the 50-point mark. He ranks second among defenseman in goals (11), assists (40) and points (51) through 57 games.
Keith’s teammate, Brian Campbell, notched 52 points last season for the Hawks. Before that, no Hawks defenseman had scored 50 points since Chris Chelios tallied 72 points during the 1995-96 season.