New Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard sits down for a one-on-one with chicagoblackhawks.com to discuss his first practice, moving forward and more.
Did you always know this day was coming? And now that it's here, how does it feel?
Obviously circumstances are not what I had wished for, but I'm excited about everything. If they were going to make a change, I'm glad that the Wirtz family and Dale [Tallon] had the confidence in me to pursue this dream that I had.
As you said today, you've realized a lot of dreams in hockey. At what point did you know you wanted to be a head coach?
When I got into coaching. I didn't get into coaching just to stay an assistant. I was OK with that role because I love being at the rink and being part of a great organization like the Blackhawks. I knew that I had a lot to learn when I started.
I believe that 8-9 years has given me everything that a head coach needs to learn. 3-4 years ago I was probably not quite ready for that yet, but today I can tell you that I am ready.
You had a brief stint as interim head coach in 2001. What did you learn from that experience?
It was a quick stint. I didn't really have much control. But now I'm the new boss of the team coaching-wise. As I told the players today, I expect effort just like our fans and management are. We need to continue to be the team that comes to the rink and works hard every night.
I'm going to allow our guys to be a little more creative as far as pursuing pucks harder on our forecheck. It's pretty tough to make a lot of changes with only two days of changes and we have to face Dallas here on Wednesday.
How did your first practice go this morning?
It went really well. I thought our guys were excited. Some of the drills were a little harder. Part of it is because if we want to pursue pucks, our team is going to have to be in really great shape, especially having our 'D' come down and create some pinching down low. So we have to elevate our conditioning a little bit.
Did the guys seem stunned at all, or was there maybe even a little extra jump in their step with the change?
I think they're excited. Every time a new guy, a new voice, comes in, it's exciting for the players. I told the players that we all have to be responsible for what happened here today, but we have to move on because we've got a game here in two days. We'll adjust and make some little tweaks here and there and hopefully get us ready for Dallas.
Do you agree with Dale's claim that this team is better than its record?
Yes, no doubt. There's no question in my mind and I told the guys that. We've got a great goalie in Khabby and he's played tremendous for us this year. Our problem is that we haven't been scoring very much. Our power play was just on the verge of getting some goals for us and we will. Tomorrow I'll address that with the team. Guys who play hard and deserve to be out there will be on the power play.
You and Dale both want a more up-tempo style. How do you translate that to the ice?
It's an attitude. At the same time, you can tweak systems a little bit to create that. I find that our players in a lot of situations, we have time to make a play and they don't do it. That's not part of coaching, sometimes that's just a mentality. That will be my job to get them to believe they can because they can. They're playing at the NHL level for a reason.
Was there one thing in particular -- whether personnel-wise or tactically on the ice -- that you wanted to change right away as head coach?
Not necessarily. I think Trent did a good job. But as a head coach, your record lets you keep your job or get fired. Unfortunately, our record hasn't been very good in the last little while. Even though we have injuries, we have to find ways to be more competitive and to win. Our goal is to get to that 8th spot in the playoffs. We're eight points back and have 60 games to go. We have 16 games in December and it will be a crucial month for us.
Moving forward, what has you positive about your team?
We're a team that skates, and we're going to have to skate. This system is going to be more aggressive and conditioning-wise it's going to be a little tougher for our guys. I'm going to try to put people in their strengths. I'll have individual meetings with the guys tomorrow and explain what their roles are. I'm going to gather six of our leaders and talk to them tomorrow.
There are a lot of positives. As I said, we're a team that can skate. But we've got to relax and play the game like when you were a kid, except we have to play within a team system. At the same time, we have to enjoy every minute while we're out there.
I'm sure you've heard from a lot of friends and family today. What has the reaction been?
Everybody's excited. Everybody has asked many times, "When is this going to happen? When is this going to happen?" I've always said I'm happy where I'm at and that's the way it goes. I want our team to be successful first. It's not about me; it's about the organization. Now I'm the new guy and I've got to get it done.