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Blackhawks Thu Oct 16 2008

Hawks fire Savard with little Savoir-faire

Despite notching their first win last night 4-1 against Phoenix, the Blackhawks announced this morning they were firing head coach and Hall-of-fame player Denis Savard just 4 games into the season. Savard has been replaced with Joel Quenneville, a veteran coach who most recently was head of the Avalanche and has had considerable experience behind the bench, posting a 438-283-118 record over 11 years.

While the Blackhawks have been inconsistent to start the year, last night was their strongest performance on the ice yet, though Savard acknowledged after the game there was still room for improvement despite the victory.

Quenneville has posted a solid resume throughout his career and has led his teams to the playoffs in nine of his 11 years, and GM Dale Tallon acknowledged as much in his statement this morning.

"This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally," Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon said. "Denis is forever a part of our organization. We made a tough decision that we strongly feel is the right one as we continue to evaluate our team and create a championship caliber organization that can sustain success. Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

Although Quenneville's a solid coach with proven success, four games into the season with a young team struggling to find its identity isn't the time to be making drastic changes, and Savard is bearing the brunt of the poor decisions made by Tallon this offseason. Due to Tallon's salary cap mismanagement, any head coach the team installs is going to be handcuffed by two high-priced, mercurial goalies, weak depth at center and a final roster that was settled via money rather than talent. Savard was working with the parts Tallon gave him, and while the early results were less than spectacular, 4 games isn't enough time to definitively say Savard wasn't the right man to lead the Hawks to the playoffs.

Savard had no head-coaching experience before being hired in Nov. 2006, and despite the lack of a fully established system and his penchant for overmanaging his lines, lead the team to within 3 points of a playoff berth last season. It's entirely possible he wasn't the right coach to take the Hawks to the next level, but the early season struggles were not entirely his fault.

Whether Savard was the right choice or not, it's clear today's firing had little to do with his on-ice results. Make no mistake, Savard is getting the shaft for Tallon's blunders, and if the team doesn't right the ship quickly, Tallon will be following Savvy out the United Center doors.

 
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Sarah / October 16, 2008 2:13 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful summary - I for one am sad to see Savard go.

Jeremy PiniakAuthor Profile Page / October 16, 2008 9:04 PM

It's sad to see someone who's so important to Hawks history get the short end of the stick, but at the same time, I don't think Savard was the coach to take the team to the next level. I think Quenneville will be a good choice, but I hope he'll be able to tailor his style to fit these team's strenghts.

It's nice to hear he'll be offered a position within the organization however...

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