After the Wild beat the Stars on the final day of the NHL season to let the Blackhawks sneak into the playoffs, former Minnesota forward Andrew Brunette sat in the dressing room imagining the reaction of his former coach.
"I have been around Joel (Quenneville) long enough that I could envision him at home that night fist-pumping, red-faced and probably having a good belly laugh," Brunette recalled Tuesday on the phone. "I'm sure he got a pretty good cackle out of that."
Developments last Friday put Quenneville in an even better mood after the Hawks signed Brunette and four other veterans in the first day of NHL free agency. Having spent three seasons under Quenneville with the Avalanche from 2005-08 played a major role in Brunette's decision because he entered the uncertain free-agent period surest of one thing.
Coach Q is a fan of Brunette's.
"I'm used to Joel," Brunette said. "I know what he expects. He's an honest coach and you have a lot of respect for him because of that honesty. I know he's going to do certain things. It makes it a lot easier on the mind."
That background showed when Brunette chuckled when answering a question about adjusting to Quenneville's propensity to shuffle line combinations. Brunette was juggled enough in Colorado before settling in on a line with Joe Sakic that nothing next season will surprise him.
"I don't know if you ever get used to it, but you learn to expect a tweak here and there and just play the game," said Brunette, who would look good on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Or Brunette also might fit well on a second line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.
The point: Quenneville gains a proven veteran offensive option the Hawks lacked, which makes Brunette the new Hawk most likely to make the biggest impact. Enforcer Dan "Car Bomb" Carcillo might draw the most attention and 39-year-old defenseman Sean O'Donnell may bring the most experience, but Brunette most obviously improves the Hawks immediately.
"He's a strong guy who protects the puck well," GM Stan Bowman said. "He can make plays, he can finish plays (and) he goes to the net."
Not that Brunette always goes quickly.
"I have deceptive speed," he quipped. "I am actually slower than I look."
That self-deprecating humor reflects the type of character Bowman sought in a Hawks' dressing room that needed an infusion of something different. Nobody knows yet whether the eclectic mix of personalities Bowman signed last weekend will work. But you don't have to be a sports psychologist to know that last year's mix didn't.
"You get guys who have been through the trenches and don't have that many opportunities left to win the Cup, you bring a little stability, a little hunger back," Brunette said.
Indeed, nobody accused the Hawks in 2010-11 of having too big of an appetite. Too many nights Quenneville went to the podium after inexplicable losses and searched for words that escaped him. He went through the list of synonyms for urgency by Christmas.
Perhaps it was easier to see than explain, at least from afar.
"I watched their playoff series with Vancouver and you could see there wasn't that push-back they needed," said Carcillo, signed specifically to change that.
A fine line exists. Carcillo possesses offensive skills — scoring at least 10 goals in two of his four full NHL seasons — and playoff experience that made him attractive. But he can't allow the number of dumb penalties in his role as instigator outweigh the good.
In 57 games last year with the Flyers, for instance, he piled up 127 penalty minutes and engaged in 13 fights, according to hockeyfights.com.
Said Brunette of Carcillo: "He's going to bring the sandpaper."
But some polish too, Carcillo promised.
"I'm not a one-dimensional player," Carcillo said. "Stan and Joel expressed that they want me to play on the edge. They're willing to accept a few bad penalties. I know I don't have the best reputations with the refs in this league. But I know how to stay within that line too."
One of the first of Carcillo's ex-teammates to send congratulations was Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger. Among the first new teammates to reach out were Kane and Duncan Keith. Carcillo has yet to hear from his buddy Kevin Connolly, star of "Entourage," but would welcome another mention on the hit HBO show that used his name in 2009 on Connolly's character's Blackberry — this time as a Blackhawk.
Chicago fans, consider Carcillo Dennis Rodman or A.J. Pierzynski on skates; you hate him until he's one of yours.
"I can't wait to play with the kind of emotion I play with in that building," Carcillo said.