As the Blackhawks were scuffling again in 2006, they decided to replace one familiar Blackhawks face with a legendary one. Trent Yawney, after starting out 7-12-2, was sent packing for Denis Savard to take over.
Savard would put the Blackhawks on the right trajectory–only to see the team win a Cup a season after sending him away for Joel Quenneville in 2008.
But when he was hired in 2006, excitement rippled through a long suffering fanbase.
Savard Returns to Reboot the Blackhawks
The Blackhawks would see an uptick in play when Savard took over, playing a more up tempo game that contrasted from Yawney’s more defensive minded approach. Savard also coached at the dawn of the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era–bringing the two rookies along in 2007-08.
Savard would expect the best of his players and for them to buy in as he once had when he skated in Chicago. Whether barking on the bench or in a press conference following the game, Savard oozed professionalism but also demanded better.
There was of course the famous “commit to the Indian” speech he gave following a lackluster 1-0 loss against Columbus in January of 2008. Though the front office would backtrack from the wording since it could be construed as offensive, Savard was referring more to the pride of wearing the sweater of an Original Six team and less about what it looked like.
The speech would be a line of demarcation for a team seeking momentum.
The Hawks were smack dab at .500 during that speech. They’d lose three more after that. The Hawks would go 17-9-3 to finish off the season.
The Blackhawks would still finish six games over .500 and give Savard a chance to return to take his new core of Kane and Toews to a playoff appearance the following season.
But it wouldn’t end as Savard–or many Blackhawks fans would hope.
The Cup Would Return–But not with Savvy Behind the Bench
It of course, didn’t end in a storybook fashion. Savard was fired after Chicago started out 1-2-1 to begin the 2008-09 season. The Blackhawks legend who moved the needle a bit wouldn’t be there to see them climb the mountain. Talk radio was afire that day, furious at how they broomed a guy who’d been so good to–and for the organization.
But in the end, Savard understood–even though he wouldn’t agree with it. Pierre LeBrun, then writing for ESPN, quoted Savard as getting it.
“They promised to bring a Stanley Cup here, and they felt maybe I wasn’t their guy. It’s very well understood.”
A season later they would. Just with Quenneville at the helm.
It didn’t diminish the role Savard played in bringing Chicago to the level he felt they should be at. Though Quenneville would take them to the promised land, Savard was the one who made them believe the promised land was a possible destination.