Denis Savard has been let go as coach of the Blackhawks, replaced by Joel Quenneville. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Well, that was quick.
It sure didn’t take long for the annual early–season head coaching firings to begin. The fact Denis Savard was fired so early in the season by the Blackhawks still begs the question: Why didn’t Chicago just take care of this business and move in a different direction over the summer?
It was clear Savard was working on a short leash this year. The Hawks are entering a renaissance as they work their way towards regaining fan loyalty and a playoff berth, which the club hasn’t seen since 2002. In the off-season they went out and spent big money on free agents Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet, meaning, this year, failure wasn’t an option and Savard was going to be let go if the club took a dip.
Not only did the Hawks make some changes on the ice, but since the passing of long-time owner William Wirtz last season, the management team has adopted new, though experienced, faces and new, though tried and tested, philosophies.
Scotty Bowman was brought in as a senior advisor and only a few weeks ago Joel Quenneville, fresh off the bench in Denver, was brought in as a scout. That scouting job has now evolved into a head coaching position in a matter of weeks.
Savard would certainly have been looking over his shoulder when Quenneville was brought in, but I’m sure even he thought he had at least a month to get this team going in the right direction out of the gate. But, after a 1-2-1 start to the season, even though they beat the Coyotes in a decisive 4-1 decision just the night before, Savard was shown the door.
Last year it was six games in before Bob Hartley was let go by the moribund Thrashers, but their record was 0-6, so that firing was understandable.
This one is a head-scratcher. Savard brought an exciting brand of hockey and was growing as a coach with this team. He missed the playoffs in both seasons as the bench boss, but the team improved by 17 points last year and young players such as Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp – not to mention Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews – exploded onto the scene under Savard’s tutelage and were obviously buying into the system he was selling.
Quenneville certainly brings in a wealth of knowledge and experience and it’s worth noting he’s only missed the playoffs once as a head coach in the NHL. However, many of the Hawks youngsters have found their way under Savard and four games isn’t long enough to get a true feel for how the team is progressing this season, so it’s hard to see what Savard did to warrant a replacement.
It’s a whole lot of out with the old and in with the new in Chicago recently and this move just continues that trend. That’s all fine and good, but wouldn’t it have been better for everyone involved if they got this over with before training camp?
For more great analysis, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.