Just heard Denis Savard talking about his firing on the NHL's XM Radio Home Ice station, which took some guts because the Chicago Blackhawks only gave him the news a couple of hours earlier.
Savard's tone hid his bitterness about as well as John McCain did during the presidential debate last night, claiming he did " a heck of a job with the young kids" and insisting he would always feel like he made an important contribution should this team one day win the Stanley Cup.
No wonder he said he was surprised by the decision. If that's true though, it should only be because the Blackhawks are coming off their first win of the season. What Savard must have realized was that his firing was inevitable since the summer when the team refused to give him a contract extension beyond this season and brought former Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville into the organization as a pro scout.
Quenneville has a proven track record as a winning NHL coach, even if he was dumped by Colorado after taking them to the second round of the playoffs, which was further than they deserved to be last season. But Quenneville did not have the same "in" with the higher ups in the organization as his replacement Tony Granato, a protege of team president and former GM Pierre Lacroix who had never coached at any level when he was hired as Colorado's head coach in 2002. It soon became apparent that Granato wasn't ready, and after the lockout he was demoted to an assistant's role to learn under Quenneville.
Savard didn't have any head coaching experience either when Chicago elevated him from an assistant's role midway through the 2006-07 season. But he was a Hall of Fame player who became famous for his "Savardian spin" during his 10 playing seasons with the Blackhawks and he was a personal favorite of former owner Bill Wirtz. Thing is Wirtz passed away just before last season began, leaving the team in the hands of his son, Rocky, and new team president John McDonough, a marketing whiz who came over from the Cubs organization and neither had any particular loyalty to Savard.
But with an overhauled lineup that featured a wealth of recently drafted young talent, it didn't really matter because the Blackhawks looked exciting on the ice and came close to making the playoffs. The run generated buzz for the team in Chicago for the first time in years and created very high expectations for this season, especially after the team opened the check book and made big splashes on the free agent market.
Unfortunately things went sour quickly and threatened to unravel all the good will. The Blackhawks lost their first three games of the season, including the home opener against Nashville that was preceded by a red carpet entry to the arena by the players. The team looked lackluster and directionless in all the games, and started off slowly again last night, before an electrifying goal by Martin Havlat got them on track for their first win.
But the problems with the team's power play and penalty killing were still evident, and questions about the work ethic weren't really answered, certainly not to the satisfaction of someone like Bowman, who clearly has the ear of those who call the shots.
That's something that general manager Dale Tallon should be thinking about right now.