Denis Savard

'Not I think, I know': Denis Savard confident Blackhawks will make the playoffs next season

'Not I think, I know': Denis Savard confident Blackhawks will make the playoffs next season

The Blackhawks are going through a transition phase for the first time in the Rocky Wirtz era. The organization isn’t used to this.

The calendar flipped to May on Wednesday and the Blackhawks aren’t one of the final eight teams playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’ve become so accustomed to being one of the 16 teams in the dance and it hasn’t happened for two consecutive seasons now.

But Blackhawks legend and team ambassador Denis Savard believes that won’t be the case next season. And he’s confident in that.

"I'm going to tell you this: We're going to make the playoffs next year," Savard told NBC Sports Chicago’s Pat Boyle on the latest edition of Chevy Drives. "I'm looking at the cameras: We will. I'll tell you why: We're a much, much better team defensively and we played the right way, I believe the last 30 games. It started to sink into us, 'hey you, know what, Jeremy, good sell by you because they're buying into your stuff cause we have to.' And I think. Not I think, I know we will be in the playoffs."

Savard knows what it’s like to be a rookie NHL head coach for an Original Six franchise. After all, he was in Jeremy Colliton’s shoes when Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were rookies. So if there’s anyone that can relate to Colliton, it’s Savard.

While the two of them haven’t had too much communication since Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks, Savard can already tell that Colliton is the right man for the job in helping the franchise turn things around.

"Not a lot, but I'll tell you he's a good coach,” Savard said. “Tough to come in the first couple months, wow. First thing I looked at was the special teams, they got better, especially the power play. The penalty kill got better, but not quite as good as the power play. Our team play the last 30 games got better. I mean, way better. So that credit's to him. I think next year coming to camp, having a good start, we're all gonna be hopefully getting in this car, in this Chevy next year saying, 'Savvy, we called it.'"

Check out the full video above.

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10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”  

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 3: Denis Savard out, Joel Quenneville in

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 3: Denis Savard out, Joel Quenneville in

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

With Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews having established themselves as two of the game's rising superstars during their rookie year, it was clear the Blackhawks were ready to take the next step into playoff contention. But after starting the 2008-09 season with a 1-2-1 record, the Blackhawks made a change behind the bench.

Joel Quenneville was promoted to head coach one month after being hired as a Chicago pro scout and Denis Savard was relieved of his duties in an effort to bring in a more experienced voice to lead the charge.

"We've got an extremely entertaining, exciting team with great youth and great prospects for success," Quenneville said at his introductory press conference in October of 2008. "I'm looking forward to fulfilling all our objectives of being a top team and winning hockey games, and getting to the playoffs and going from there."

The Blackhawks went on to snap a five-year playoff drought and finished the season with 104 points, their highest point total in 15 years, and reached the Conference Finals before falling to the Detroit Red Wings in five games.

While it may have been difficult to part ways with one of the Blackhawks' all-time greatest players, it turned out to be one of the best decisions the franchise has ever made with Quenneville coaching the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in six years and Savard being a part of the ride as well after he was brought back on as a team ambassador.

Quenneville has compiled a 446-243-93 record in 782 games for a win percentage of .630, along with 128 playoff wins, in 10 seasons with the Blackhawks. He also moved into second on the all-time wins list with 884, trailing only Scotty Bowman (1,244).