Monday, November 27, 2006

Bottom feeding Hawks look to Savard for on ice salvation

Perhaps Tom Cruise was too busy on his honeymoon for the next mission. Denis Savard was named head coach of the Chicago Black Hawks today, a decision that should be considered cruel and unusual punishment in most judicial districts.

Savard takes over the under performing Hawks from Trent Yawney, who had the misfortune of getting off to a decent start, only to watch the team spend the better part of the last month in various clinics and hospitals and perhaps a comfy lazy boy chair or two. Yawney for a brief moment in time had done something that hadn’t been seen in Chi-town in a good number of years, win games, sometimes back to back and score goals and stop shots, in short, briefly they began to resemble a professional hockey club.

But in the space of a few short weeks it had all unraveled, as Martin Havlat’s scoring spree was stopped by injury, as were the scoring talents of Michal Handzus. To make matters worse, Nicklai Khabibulun, who was brought over from Tampa Bay to channel the energies of Glen Hall and Tony Esposito, has managed to show a rather stark inability to stop the incoming shots of late.

Things had spiraled out of control with the Hawks losing 12 of their last 15 games and looking like a solid bet for missing the playoffs as the people of Chicago were putting away their Turkey dinner. This made for a dire situation that seemed to yell out for action, considering that there is more than four months to go in the season.

With only Columbus between them and the bottom of the league and Columbus having hired on a big gun last week in Ken Hitchcock, Hawks GM Dale Tallon felt the time had come for a change of his own. But instead of seeking an outside agent who could come in with a clean slate and wide broom, he tapped hall of famer and Black Hawk legend Savard to take over the duties on the bridge.

It’s a chance for Savard to do what many say is impossible, make the Hawks a winner. But it surely must come with some serious drawbacks. The Hawks have long seemed the most dysfunctional of teams in a league that has had more than their fair share of unusual management teams. They have been mired so long in the bottom echelon of the league that they barely register in the third largest city in the USA, the rink frequently is empty, the games rarely televised at home by choice of management.

They at times resemble gypsy players, traveling from town to town in one of the most historic uniforms in NHL history but a mere shadow of those now ancient teams of Hull, Mikita, Hall, Stapleton or Roenick, Belfour, Chelios and Savard.

You have to wish Savard well, he’s been a hard worker through his career and this is certainly going to be in for a major challenge. But somehow you just get the feeling that the problems in Chicago run a lot deeper than changing a coach or moving some players...

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