For much of the last decade, Denis Savard has been an assistant as seven coaches have tried to turn around the Chicago Blackhawks. On Wednesday, he’ll try his hand at guiding one of the league’s weakest teams for the first time.
Savard makes his head coaching debut when the Blackhawks meet the Dallas Stars.
The Hall of Famer takes over for Trent Yawney, who on Monday became the third coach in the league to be fired this season. Ken Hitchcock was let go by Philadelphia last month before taking over in Columbus for Gerard Gallant.
Yawney, who led the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate to five straight playoff appearances before coming to Chicago in 2005, won just 33 games since the start of last season.
“We’re not happy over the last few years as far as our win-loss record is concerned,” Savard said. “The players have to share that responsibility. But we’re looking to move forward and go in a new direction.”
Ending a nearly five-year winless skid against Dallas would help. The Blackhawks (7-12-2) have 13 losses and two ties in 15 games against the Stars (16-7-0) since March 2002.
Savard takes over a team that has dropped 12 of 15 overall after a surprising 4-2-0 start.
The Blackhawks return to the United Center after being outscored 17-9 while posting a 1-3-1 record on its annual Circus road trip. Chicago has scored a total of three goals in its last three games, including a 5-1 loss to Edmonton on Friday in what turned out to be Yawney’s last game.
“We decided (Sunday) night we needed to do this,” Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said. “We needed to change things around a little bit here. We’ve been flat.”
Savard scored 473 goals in 18 seasons with Chicago, Montreal and Tampa Bay. After retiring in 1997, he rejoined Chicago as an assistant and ended up serving under seven coaches—Craig Hartsburg, Dirk Graham, Lorne Molleken, Bob Pulford, Alpo Suhonen, Brian Sutter and Yawney.
“I believe that 8-9 years has given me everything that a head coach needs to learn. (Three or four) years ago I was probably not quite ready for that yet, but today I can tell you that I am ready,” Savard told the Blackhawks’ official Web site.
Savard, one of five Blackhawks to have his number retired, also said a playoff spot remains a possibility.
“We have to find ways to be more competitive and to win,” Savard said. “Our goal is to get to that eighth spot in the playoffs. We’re eight points back and have 60 games to go. We have 16 games in December and it will be a crucial month for us.”
Chicago has reached the playoffs once since the 1996-97 season.
Savard, though, may have the team’s best player back as left wing Martin Havlat could suit up for this contest. Havlat had seven goals and 13 points in his first seven games with Chicago before suffering a sprained ankle in a 5-4 loss to Dallas on Oct. 20.
The Stars will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
Antti Miettinen scored in the second period, but the Stars allowed two short-handed goals in the third period of a 2-1 loss to Detroit on Monday.
“A few chances we should have buried and then we gave up a couple goals on the power play and that just killed us,” Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said.
Dallas had not allowed two short-handed goals in one game since a 7-1 loss to St. Louis on Nov. 10, 1997.
The Stars haven’t lost two in a row since falling at Vancouver and Calgary on Nov. 6 and 7.