Even before the start of what looked to be a promising season, rumor was that Chicago Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard might be on the hot seat if the team got off to a slow start -- word that was attributed to the arrival of Scotty Bowman as a special adviser in Chicago. Heck, Savard actually made a CBC list of five coaches who could be under the gun before the end of the season, but I still don't think anyone could imagine that Savard, who by all accounts was doing a good job with his young charges in Chicago, might be let go.
Put that all aside now, as the Blackhawks have given Savard one of the quickest hooks in NHL history, firing him after only four games and replacing him with ex-Blues and Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. Here's Chicago GM Dale Tallon, the only man who could manage to make Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell look thoughtful by comparison, on the change :
"This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally," Blackhawks general manager Dale 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. Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."
Far be it from me to question Quenneville's bona fides, but this decision stinks to high heaven.
I'm sure many of you will recall that the Blackhawks hired Quenneville over the Summer, ostensibly to scout college and pro games in and around his home in Denver. In an interview with TSN's Darren Dreger earlier this year, Tallon addressed the rumors that Savard ought to be worried:
If the Blackhawks lose four out of five games, will Denis Savard be looking over his shoulder?
Hawks general manager Dale Tallon scoffs at the suggestion.
"That's not it at all," Tallon told TSN.
"That's not why we brought him in. Joel is here to help me more than anything," Tallon added.
Tallon says Quenneville and Savard have talked and there are no issues or concerns.
For the record, the Hawks lost three of their first four, so I guess it would be unfair to call Tallon a liar.
Quenneville has been available to take over in Chicago since the second week in May when he was dismissed by the Avalanche. If there were such deep and abiding doubts about Savard, who did nothing but take over a team in complete disarray and almost very well make it to the playoffs last season, there were plenty of other opportunities to make that happen in the interim.
The way the Blackhawks have handled this, they've managed to stuff themselves into the same category of professional sports franchise as the New York Mets. You'll recall that the Mets GM Omar Minaya allowed manager Willie Randolph to twist in the wind for weeks, before letting him accompany the team on a West Coast road trip and then firing him after he actually managed to win a game -- just as the Hawks have done in the wake of the team's 4-1 win over Phoenix last night.
I don't doubt that Quenneville will do a great job with the Hawks. I'm just hoping that for the sake of the franchise, the decision winds up being worth the price of carelessly severing a relationship with one of its greatest players.