Blackhawks fire Savard after 4 games, hire Quenneville

Blackhawks fire Savard after 4 games, hire Quenneville

Blackhawks fire Savard after 4 games, hire Quenneville
ESPN.com

The Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Denis Savard just four games into the season on Thursday, replacing him with NHL coaching veteran Joel Quenneville.

The team canceled its Thursday practice and scheduled an afternoon news conference for 5:30 p.m. ET.

"I'm disappointed but I guess it's the nature of the business," Savard said from his Chicago home Thursday.

"I know I was doing a good job, I'm dedicated to my work. Obviously they felt they had to make a change, so what can you do."

Savard, who was in the last year of his contract, was told he'd been fired Thursday morning by GM Dale Tallon.

"I knew I had to do well this year. We talked this summer and I was aware of that," Savard said.

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.

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.

In a prepared statement, the team said firing Savard -- one of the franchise's greatest players -- was not easy.

"This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally," Tallon said. "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."

Quenneville, according to Tallon, "brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

Quenneville, who had been working as a scout for the Blackhawks, coached the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 through 2008 and led the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons (1996-2004). He has a 438-283-118 career record, including a 44-31-7 mark in Colorado last season.

Led by sophomore stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have high hopes to make it back into the playoffs this season. They lost their first three games before finally winning Wednesday night.

"They promised to bring a Stanley Cup here, and they felt maybe I wasn't their guy. It's very well understood," said Savard.

"The only thing I can say is that last year I thought I did a heck of a job with our young kids," added Savard. "Eight to 10 rookies in our lineup. We had a bit of a slow start this year but I thought the team was on the right track. I guess it goes with the territory. As a coach you're judged on wins and losses."

Savard posted a 65-66-16 record in parts of three seasons as coach of the Blackhawks. 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.

A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, he had 473 goals and 865 assists in 1,196 career games with the Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.

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