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Blackhawks fire Denis Savard

NHL.com @NHL

CHICAGO (AP) -Denis Savard was fired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday after just four games and hours after the team's first victory of the season. He was replaced by team scout Joel Quenneville, who has coached two other NHL clubs.

The Blackhawks, who have missed the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons, improved to 1-2-1 following a 4-1 victory at home over Phoenix on Wednesday night.

"First and foremost, I'm proud of what we accomplished last year with the young kids in the lineup. I hope for them to do well," Savard told The Associated Press by phone. "It's a tough day, no question. I'm hurt. I worked hard to do the best I could to get the team on its way to the Stanley Cup."

The team is now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard's abrupt ouster. The team canceled its Thursday practice and scheduled an afternoon news conference.

"This was an extremely hard day for this organization and for me personally," general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement. "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."

Quenneville has coached the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche, and his first game as coach of the Blackhawks is Saturday at St. Louis. He has a 438-283-118 record in parts of 11 seasons. He was signed by the Blackhawks as a pro scout in September.

"Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact," Tallon said.

Savard, a Hall of Fame player, became coach in November 2006 and finished that season with a record of 24-30-7 in 61 games. Last season, Savard led Chicago to its first 40-win season since 2001-02. The Blackhawks went 40-34-8 but still missed the playoffs.

Asked why he was fired so early in the season, Savard said: "You have to ask them that question."

"John (McDonough, the team president) and Rocky made a commitment to the fans we were going to be in the playoffs and (eventually) win the Stanley Cup," he added. "They probably thought somebody else would be better to get them there. I don't know that."

The 45-year-old Savard retired after a 17-year career in 1997. He played with the Blackhawks, Montreal and Tampa Bay, scoring 473 goals with 865 assists. He was Chicago's first-round pick in the 1980 NHL entry draft.

He started the 1997-98 season as the Blackhawks' developmental coach before joining the Blackhawks coaching staff as an assistant coach under Craig Hartsburg on Dec. 3, 1997.

Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then he has hired McDonough, the former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru, as president. The team has mended fences with former stars like Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised - something Bill Wirtz was opposed to - and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.

The Blackhawks also have two young stars in last year's rookie of the year Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Quenneville and the Avalanche agreed to end their relationship at the end of last season after Colorado was swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings. Quenneville was 131-92-23 in three seasons with Colorado. He spent eight seasons with the Blues, becoming the team's winningest coach with 307 victories.

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