Hall of Famer Savard named Blackhawks' new coach

11/28/2006 - NHL Chicago Blackhawks

BENSENVILLE, Ill. -- After losing 12 of 15 games, the
Chicago Blackhawks went on the offensive Monday, switching coaches
and styles.

The Blackhawks fired defense-oriented coach Trent Yawney,
replacing him with assistant Denis Savard -- a Hall of Fame player
whose No. 18 hangs from the United Center rafters. With the new
coach comes a faster pace.

"We want to be a pressure team," said Savard, who joined the
Blackhawks in 1997 as an assistant coach and will be behind the
bench Wednesday against Dallas. "We've got to score more than one
or two goals to be able to win. ... We have to be responsible
defensively, but offensively, we have to be a little more

Yawney, in his second season coaching the Blackhawks, had
33-55-15 record and one season left on his contract.

Chicago has 16 points this season -- only Columbus has fewer --
and could be on the way to missing the playoffs for the ninth time
in 10 years.

"We're eight points out of the playoffs," general manager Dale
Tallon said. "We've only won three of the last 15 games. We want
to make a run."

Tallon revamped the roster after the Blackhawks finished
26-43-13, the third-worst record last season. During the preseason,
the team seemed faster and more skilled, but the Blackhawks have
not met expectations.

"I know that I can turn this around," said Savard, who played
17 years with Chicago, Montreal and Tampa Bay. "We're going to be
a team that is exciting to watch. We're going to create a lot more,
offensively, with the system we're going to use."

Savard said the team will be more aggressive forechecking, and
he expects that to lead to more opportunities on offense.

"We have to play better; that's just a fact," forward Tuomo
Ruutu said. "Maybe [Savard] can bring some new things to our team,
but I don't think it's going to be totally different. He can't
change everything."

Although he is not signed for next season, Savard said he
expects to be retained. For that to happen, Tallon said Savard
"has to get us close to the playoffs."

The Blackhawks went through an 0-7-1 slide this season and have
been hurt by injuries to forwards Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus
and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

"We scored [17] goals in the last 13 games," Tallon said.
"With any offense at all, we're closer to .500 than we are. ...
Once the injuries occurred, we changed our style, and we wanted to
play those close-to-the-vest type games. I don't think in the new
rules you can play that way."

Although Tallon said there was no tension between him and
Yawney, defenseman Adrian Aucoin sensed the GM and coach "weren't
on the same page."

"It was just a vibe," Aucoin said.

Still, he was surprised by the move. Aucoin said most players
thought a trade -- not a coaching change -- was coming.

"It's a little wakeup call for everybody," he said.

Yawney coached the Blackhawks' minor-league affiliate in
Norfolk, Va., for five seasons, taking the Admirals to the playoffs
five straight times.

He made his NHL debut as a player with Chicago in 1988 and
played with the Blackhawks until traded to Calgary in 1991. He
spent parts of five seasons with the Flames.

Yawney then joined the St. Louis Blues before returning to the
Blackhawks in 1997 as a free agent. After breaking his arm the
following season, he assisted the coaching staff and in 1999 was
hired as an assistant for Chicago under coach Lorne Molleken.

"It's not about the coach," Ruutu said. "It's about the
players, and we should do better."