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NHL teams can win with Quinn

But BU coach in no hurry to go

Stephen Harris Sunday, July 03, 2016
Credit: Nancy Lane

With the success this past season of former University of North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol with the Philadelphia Flyers, NHL teams no doubt will be looking more than ever to the college ranks for coaching candidates.

Boston University’s David Quinn has already been on at least one’s club’s radar screen. And given the remarkable showing by BU players, present and future, in last weekend’s NHL draft, it’s hard to believe that teams in need of coaches aren’t going to be coming hard after the 49-year-old Quinn before long.

He’s in no hurry to leave for the pro ranks. And why would he, with a 2016 draft class that included four Terriers selected in the first round — all in the top 19 picks — plus guys selected in Round 2 and Round 5?

Making Quinn all the more attractive is the fact he’s been a head coach at AHL Lake Erie and an NHL assistant with the Colorado Avalanche.

“I have that pro experience that gives me maybe a little bit of a leg up on other (college) guys,” Quinn said. “You never know; you like to take on new challenges. But for me, it’s way too early for (the NHL). I love what I do, and I’m in an unbelievable place. I’d love to win two, three, four national titles at BU.”

Quinn is quick to credit his assistants — Steve Greeley (who last summer left to become assistant player personnel director for the New York Rangers), Albie O’Connell and ex-BU and NHL star Scott Young — for the remarkable haul of talent his program landed:

•    No. 7 pick (Coyotes), Clayton Keller, a super-talented playmaking center.

•    No. 14 pick (Bruins) Charlie McAvoy, a dynamic, all-round defenseman.

•    No. 17 pick Dante Fabbro (Predators), a tremendously talented two-way blueliner from the BCHL.

•    No. 19 pick Kiefer Bellows (Islanders), a true sniper on left wing, son of ex-NHL star Brian.

•    No. 45 pick Chad Krys (Blackhawks), yet another standout all-round defenseman, who looked like a possible first-rounder until a late slip.

•    No. 138 pick Patrick Harper (Predators), a small, talented center from Avon Old Farms.

“A lot of effort went into lining up these kids,” Quinn said. “The thing we’re most proud of is that one’s from Vancouver, one’s from St. Louis, one’s from Minnesota and one’s from Long Island. Not one (easily recruited) Massachusetts kid.

“We had to go out, identify them from an early age, build a relationship, work hard to get them, get into major battles with major schools throughout the country. Steve, Albie and Scott did a phenomenal job. The university did, too. They supported us and gave us the resourses to go and do this. They deserve all the credit.”

Quinn also spent plenty of time in the living rooms of players’ families, pitching BU.

“Yes, yes I do,” he said with a laugh. “I went over to Sweden two years ago over July 4 weekend and met with JFK (terrific B’s prospect Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson). That’s what you’ve got to do.

“These parents are entrusting you as coaches. They’re handing their child over to you and trusting to you to develop him, not only as a hockey player, but as a person. We take that seriously. It’s an all-encompassing process at BU. As hard as we work at making them better players, we’ve got to make them better people. Those go hand in hand.”

Like most Division 1 coaches, Quinn doesn’t like the early commitments players make these days. McAvoy, for instance, committed to BU as a ninth-grader.

“I keep telling everyone we don’t like them, we don’t want to do them — but we keep doing it,” he said.

The colleges have no real alternative, since major junior hockey is aggressively trying to sign up young players.

“If we had a (NCAA) rule (against early college commits), we wouldn’t get any of these kids, because they’d all be going up the CHL,” Quinn said.

But he landed maybe the best group in NHL draft history. Now he’s got to mold a loaded roster into a cohesive winner. Quinn is well aware that outside assumptions will be that anything less than the NCAA title for this group will be seen as a flop.

“I know, I know,” Quinn said with a laugh. “But we talk about this every year when the season starts at BU. There are about seven or eight characteristics you need to win championships. You start with talent, and we look around the room and go, ‘Yep, we’ve got that.’

“And then every team takes on its own identity. Are you going to have the right work ethic? The right leadership? The right mental toughness? Perseverance, dedication, discipline, all those characteristics. As a team, you have to form that — not only as an individual, but collectively. And, you know, that’s going to be our challenge.

“As a team we can’t be reading our press clippings. We can’t be listening to everyone telling us how great we’re going to be. All that doesn’t mean anything, You’ve got to show up from Day 1 ready to go and work hard in practice and put aside all the distractions.

“Just focus on the task at hand. Realize that if we do, A, B and C, day in and day out, we’ll have a chance to have a heck of season. If we don’t we’re going to be our own worst enemy.”


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