New Chicago Blackhawks head coach Trent Yawney. (AP \'05/Nam Y. Huh)
The move comes after a 1-3-1 road trip in which they were outscored 17-9. "We decided last night we needed to do this," Hawks GM Dale Tallon told The Canadian Press on Monday. "We just felt we wanted to go in a different direction. We needed to change things around a little bit here. We've been flat. We've only won three games in our last 15."
Yawney had another year on his deal. Savard does not have the interim tag.
"He's going to coach the rest of the year," said Tallon, who expects to add a second assistant coach.
Only the Columbus Blue Jackets, with 14 points, have fewer points than Chicago's 16.
"We're not happy over the last few years as far as our win-loss record is concerned," Savard said in a statement before coaching practice. "The players have to share that responsibility. But we're looking to move forward and go in a new direction.
"I've always wanted to be a head coach. The circumstances are not the greatest because when you take over for somebody mid-season it means things did not go as well as we all expected. I'm looking forward to working with Mark Hardy and upper management as we move forward in this new direction."
The 7-12-2 Blackhawks opened the season with a 4-2 record but went on to lose eight straight after crippling injuries to No. 1 centre Michal Handzus and star winger Martin Havlat. Handzus is likely lost for the season with a knee injury while Havlat is expected back next week from a high ankle sprain.
Havlat was leading the NHL in scoring when he sprained an ankle Oct. 20.
Yawney, who named Chicago's 35th head coach in July 2005, is the third coach fired this season after Ken Hitchcock in Philadelphia and Gerard Gallant in Columbus.
Tallon revamped the roster after the Blackhawks finished at 26-43-13 and with the third-worst record in the 30-team NHL last season. During the pre-season, the team appeared faster, quicker and more skilled than the one in 2005-06, but the Blackhawks clearly have not met expectations.
Savard began his coaching career as an assistant in Chicago after retiring from the National Hockey League in June 1997. During his playing career, Savard scored 473 goals and 865 assists in 1,196 games.
Yawney coached the Blackhawks' minor league affiliate in Norfolk, Va., for five seasons, taking the Admirals to the playoffs five straight times.
He made his NHL debut as a player with Chicago in 1988 and played with the Blackhawks until traded to Calgary in 1991. He also spent parts of five seasons with the Flames.
He then joined the St. Louis Blues before returning to the Blackhawks in 1997 as a free agent.
After breaking his arm the following season, he assisted the coaching staff and in 1999 was hired as an assistant coach for Chicago under then head coach Lorne Molleken.