Despite a 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday, Denis Savard's tenure as the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks has come to an end.
"This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally," said general manager Dale Tallon in a statement on Thursday. "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-calibre organization that can sustain success."
The team announced former Avalanche and Blues coach Joel Quenneville will take over behind the bench.
"Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact," explained Tallon in the statement.
Quenneville was added to Chicago's scouting department in September.
The 45-year old Savard, who was the Blackhawks first round pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. After a 17-year Hall of Fame career, Savard became the Hawks coach in November 2006, taking over from Trent Yawney and went 24-30-7 in 61 games. The Hawks improved to 40-34-8 last season, but still failed to make the playoffs.
Savard admitted that he was shocked by the firing.
"John (McDonough) and Rocky (Wirtz) made a commitment to the fans we were going to be in the playoffs and (eventually) win the Stanley Cup,'' Savard told the ASSOCIATED PRESS. "They probably thought somebody else would be better to get them there. I don't know that."
The Blackhawks made the move to let their coach of three years go, after the club got off to a slow 1-2-1 start. It is tied with Pittsburgh in 2001 (Ivan Hlinka - 0-4-0) and Montreal in 1995 (Jacques Demers - 0-4-0) as the quickest coach firing in the NHL over the last 20-years. The NHL record for fewest games into season for a coaching change is two. The most recent team to replace a coach after two games was Detroit in 1969 (Bill Gadsby - 2-0).
General Manager Dale Tallon refutes the notion that the firing was a spur of the moment occurence.
"It was a flat camp and we got out of the gate flat," Tallon said at a news conference. "It just didn't seem that we carried over the energy that we had to finish the year last year. We felt we needed to send a message and invigorate this team.
"It's about moving forward, about achieving and winning and developing a consistent approach. And we felt we needed a more experienced person in that position and that's why we made the decision."
Expectations are high in Chicago this season. The club added free agent defenceman Brian Campbell, and free agent goaltender Cristobal Huet in the off-season to add to the core group of Martin Havlat, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
"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."
In 147 games as Blackhawks coach, Savard posted a 65-66-16 record.
The Blackhawks have only made one playoffs appearence in the last 10 seasons. They lost in five games to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2001-02 playoffs.