Leading up to Saturday's Game 1, Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy and Greg Wyshynski are previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks - on the ice and off the ice.
Any discussion of the coaches for the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks begins with hair.
Like the hair on top of Peter Laviolette's noggin. It's technically a "part," much in the same way the Red Sea had a "part" in "The Ten Commandments." It's more like a follicle gulch. While this hasn't been scientifically proven, we're fairly certain the gap in Laviolette's mop grows wider the angrier he gets; one replay controversy in the Finals, and we may glimpse his cerebellum.
Joel Quenneville, meanwhile, has crafted a perfectly maintained upper lip monster over the years. It's that classic mustache every veteran gym teacher has: Enhancing scowls while reducing whistle friction. The sort of mustache that would mske Sam Elliott tip his cowboy hat in approval and say, "Sometimes there's a man ... and I'm talking about Coach Q here ... sometimes there's a man who knows proper grooming."
Ah, yes: But what about the hockey stuff? Coming up, a look at the Stanley Cup Finals bench bosses. Who had the better head coach: Chicago or Philadelphia?
John Stevens may have been a solid tactician and a smart hockey guy, but he didn't fit the part of Philadelphia Flyers coach. Maybe their accountant, but not their coach.
Laviolette was hired on Dec. 5 after the Flyers' middling 13-11-1 start that had them out of the playoff seeding. GM Paul Holmgren said the team needed a different voice; Laviolette's was a bellowing one that had the gravitas of a Stanley Cup championship.
He also changed the team's approach into an aggressive fore-checking group, and the talent on the roster responded. From Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News:
You hire the man and not a coaching style. But this man and this style were an exact fit.
"I think they did want to play this style," Laviolette said. "That's good in my case, because I couldn't pretend to do anything else. I can't be something that I'm not. I couldn't go into an interview and say anything else. Even if you could do it, and you went into the interview and said you were going to be a one-man [forechecking], passive, countering team, and you got the job, then what? I couldn't even pretend to sell that, but what if you did and what if you got the job? Then what? You'd be full of mistakes. You wouldn't have an idea what you're doing."
Watching the Flyers excel in the postseason against tough foes and through adversity: Laviolette's got a pretty good idea what he's doing.
Quenneville was hired five games into the 2008-09 season, at a time when the heavily-hyped young Blackhawks appeared rudderless and unorganized under Denis Savard. He gave the team structure, demanded accountability and offered a veteran presence for a team learned how to win.
"We talk about a lot of leadership in the dressing room, what the players can bring, but he's our leader," said forward Patrick Sharp(notes), a former Flyer who's been in Chicago for 41/2 seasons. "He's confident behind the bench. He's a smart hockey guy. He knows how to figure out matchups and instill confidence in his players."
That's been one of Quenneville's best assets in the 2010 postseason: Management of personnel. He remained confident in players like Kris Versteeg(notes) as they struggled on the scoresheet early. He expertly deployed his checkers like John Madden(notes) and Dave Bolland(notes) against other teams' big guns. And he was willing to admit a mistake, indirectly: reuniting Duncan Keith(notes) and Brent Seabrook(notes) out of necessity after talking about the benefits of splitting them.
Laviolette's done a hell of a job managing the roster and his coaching system in these playoffs, but the Blackhawks have the edge here.
Yes, Lavy has a .593 playoff winning percentage in 54 games and that Stanley Cup ring. Quenneville has a .525 winning percentage in 120 games, and is coaching in his first Finals.
The edge for the Blackhawks? Consistency. After a rough start against the Predators, the Blackhawks have won 11 of 13 and rebounded nicely from their only clunker in that run (Game 5 against Vancouver). Quenneville deserves credit for that steadiness, and for his team sporting a 2.46 GAA against much better offensive teams than the Flyers saw in the East.