When unpopular Chicago Blackhawks owner William Wirtz died, his son inherited the team and knew he had to make some changes.
The organization was floundering and stale, but “Rocky” Wirtz has made incredible moves within the franchise. One of his first efforts was to bring in Chicago Cubs executive John McDonough, a marketing specialist, to head the operations of the team.
The Hawks then went on a public relations campaign, and worked to mend relationships with past Blackhawks superstars who had turned their back on the organization, such as Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Stan Mikita.
The team brought back mega-popular television announcer Pat Foley, and announced that they would be televising all home games as well as road games—something William Wirtz never believed in. Things were on the right path.
Then suddenly, just four games into the season and following their first victory, they fire head coach Denis Savard, a long popular player in Hawks history. What?
How can a franchise make so many smart moves to rebuild the faith and trust of their fan base and then make such a move? Especially when that move involves such a popular figure as Denis Savard?
The writing was on the wall that a coaching change was wanted. I don’t believe the front office felt Savard had what it took to get the team to a championship level. That is why the team had brought in Joel Quenneville in the offseason for a front-office position as well as the great Scotty Bowman.
They had the veteran staff they wanted ready and waiting in the wings.
Quenneville has compiled a .592 regular-season winning percentage in parts of 11 years as a head coach in the National Hockey League, including seven seasons behind the St. Louis Blues' bench (1996-2004) and three with the Colorado Avalanche (2005-08). Bowman is also the NHL’s all-time coaching leader with 1,224 regular-season wins and 223 postseason victories.
The Hawks had a very good preseason, going 6-2, which included one overtime win and one overtime loss. They looked strong heading into the season. They opened the regular season with two losses on the road, both identical scores of 4-2. The opened at home with a 3-2 overtime loss and then won at home two nights later by a score of 4-1.
Sure, you’d like to start 4-0. But, after having such a good preseason, it is a bit rough to judge a couple of losses to start the season and say that the team needs a new coach.
My opinion is that the Hawks wanted to make this move before the season, but didn’t want to mix in the firing of Denis Savard with all of the positive momentum they were building with all of their moves. They figured they’d have the people in place to step in for Savard when he struggled with the team, perhaps and hopefully in preseason.
With their 6-2 record, this didn’t happen. However, with the team 0-3, I think the decision was made to jump to make the move they wanted to make and bring a veteran coach in to guide the team.
Unfortunately, before they could make the announcement the team did secure a win. Which would be Denis Savard's last as coach of the Blackhawks.