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Savard's job description involves coaching two of league's best young players

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Savard's job description involves coaching two of league's best young players

The Canadian Press
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As far as job descriptions go, Denis Savard's is pretty unique: Coach of once-proud franchise who is primarily responsible for helping develop two of the NHL's best young players in order to return the team to respectability.While some might see that as asking a bit too much, the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks views it as a perfect opportunity. Savard has loved working with star teenagers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane so far this season."They're special people," he said Monday on a conference call. "I think they're the type of players who want the ball to go with it - they want to run with it."They have great leadership skills in them. They want to be the best - not only once in a while, every night."More than anything, Savard is responsible for helping those guys find a way to make that happen.It's a role he should be well-suited for. Savard spent 17 years in the NHL as a player and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame after a career that saw him score more than 100 points in a season five times.Following retirement, he spent 10 years as a Blackhawks assistant and worked under seven different head coaches. When Trent Yawney was fired last November, he took over the main job.After spending an entire lifetime around the game, he has no trouble relating to players."I think one of my strengths is communicating," said Savard. "My people skills I think are good. I understand because I was a player - I know what players like and what they don't like."We're trying to have a balance here and keep everybody happy. And most importantly, keep winning."A team that was among the worst in the league a year ago is 5-6-0 so far this season. And the Blackhawks feel they could be even better, especially because of the solid play of Kane and Toews.The 18-year-old Kane leads the team in scoring with 14 points (4-10) while 19-year-old Toews has a point in all nine games he's played. He's got four goals and five assists."We didn't expect them honestly to be as good as they are right now," said Savard. "But (they've been good) because of their determination and their will and how smart they are and how mature they are."It's been fun coaching them. They bring it every night - that's what's so refreshing here."The coach truly seems to have taken to his budding stars.Toews recalls a recent team video session when Savard paused the tape just as Kane was seen charging into a corner. The coach asked Kane how much he weighs - 165 pounds was the response - before starting the tape again."Then you see Kaner go in and smash into some guy that's basically twice his size," said Toews.The coach was using his smallest player as an example to show the older guys what they should be doing."My point to our team was, 'He's not a big fellow but at the same time his courage is tremendous,"' said Savard. "We've got to learn from that as a group."Savard sees a little of himself in Kane.He was also a relatively small player that was offensively creative and even though Savard didn't say so, one has to think that's helped the relationship between coach and player.The two speak often about specific parts of the game. Savard gives Kane two small goals to focus on each day in an effort to keep things simple."He's applied those two things every day to perfection," said Savard. "That's why he's getting the results he's getting in the games now."His work ethic's incredible. His will is unbelievable. Following instructions is a big thing and he's done that."Kane and Toews have contributed greatly to a dramatic change in the mood around the team. The Blackhawks are a much happier group."The veteran guys love them," said Savard. "They bring lots of energy. ..."It's really been a big time upgrade from when I was coaching last year."There's no mystery behind that sudden change.Savard has already taking to calling Kane his team's best player. Isn't it a little strange to be saying that about an 18 year old?"No, because he has been," said Savard. "Simple as that. He has been our best player every game - day in and day out - with Jonathan right with him."They've been our best players and it's a great thing to have. Trust me."

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Savard's job description involves coaching two of league's best young players