CHICAGO (AP)—The Chicago Blackhawks fired coach Denis Savard on Thursday after a 1-2-1 start and replaced him with Joel Quenneville.
The dismissal came hours after the team won its first game by beating Phoenix 4-1. The Blackhawks are now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard’s abrupt ouster.
“This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally,” general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement. “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.”
The team canceled its Thursday practice and scheduled an afternoon news conference.
Quenneville has coached the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. His first game as coach of the Blackhawks is Saturday at St. Louis. He has a 438-283-118 record in parts of 11 seasons. He was signed by the Blackhawks as a pro scout in September.
“Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact,” Tallon said.
Savard, a Hall of Fame player, became coach in November 2006 and finished that season with a record of 24-30-7 in 61 games. Last season, Savard led Chicago to its first 40-win season since 2001-02. The Blackhawks went 40-34-8 but still missed the playoffs.
The 45-year-old Savard retired after a 17-year career in 1997. He played with the Blackhawks, Montreal and Tampa Bay, scoring 473 goals with 865 assists. He was Chicago’s first-round pick in the 1980 NHL entry draft.
He started the 1997-98 season as the Blackhawks’ developmental coach before joining the Blackhawks coaching staff as an assistant coach under Craig Hartsburg on Dec. 3, 1997.
Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then he has hired former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru John McDonough as president. The team has mended fences with former stars like Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised—something Bill Wirtz was opposed to—and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.
The Blackhawks also have two young stars in last year’s rookie of the year Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes.
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