Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chicago Fires Trent Yawney

The Chicago Blackhawks are not a particularly good team. I predicted a minor improvement this year with them finishing 12th in the west. That was with key players like Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus staying healthy. When Havlat had a fast start, I began to think they might suprise, but he was soon lost to injury.

No coach would be able to turn this team around without more talent (and the talent they have staying healthy). With all their injuries, Chicago is about par for the course tied for 13th place (with Phoenix) in the west. Nevertheless, they decided that doing something was necessary to improve things (instead of doing something intelligent). So they fired their coach.

Denis Savard takes over as Chicago coach. He has zero lifetime head coaching experience. It doesn't sound like a good move. It sounds like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

What is wrong with Chicago is ownership. Bill Wirtz is a notoriously cheap owner. He knows how to make a profit with minimal investment in his team. So why change things and try to win if it risks the profit? Hiring an unproven coach, while keeping the same ownership won't change anything. It may make things worse.

Trent Yawney is far from being a proven successful NHL coach, but he is likely closer to it then Savard is.

Look for Chicago to see minor shortterm improvement when their players get healthy, but don't expect anything significant.

Here is TSN's story on Yawney's firing and Savard's hiring.

Chicago's demise started in the mid 1990's when they put most of their games on pay per view. Doing this severely limited the exposure the team had to new and casual fan. That started the downward trend which has been enhanced even further by some poor hockey decisions (trading Roenick, Chelios, Belfour for example). It pains me to see teams like Vancouver (17 or 19 games I think this year), Edmonton, Ottawa and others putting a number of their hockey games on pay per view this year because I am afraid in the long run it could hurt their franchise just like it did Chicago.
Throwing out the "That was with key players like Martin Havlat and Michal Handzus staying healthy." is kind of a cop out. I mean, isn't that the case with all of your predictions? Or did you assume some players would get injured while others would not?

It's okay to be wrong every now and then. It means you're human. And hey, the seasons a long way from over yet. 12th is still do-able.

Chicago hme games are not available on TV in the Chicago market period. Not on pay per view. Not on center ice. Not at all. Bill Wirtz seems to think that will force fans to come to the games because they have no other way to see them.

Anonymous. I predicted 12th in the west. They are 13th. The comment about injuries was not to reconcile my prediction (its pretty much accurate as is). It was to show that Trent Yawney has not had an easy job. With key players hurt, Chicago is right around where I would have predicted them. I see why you wanted to remained anonymous for a comment like that.
Even though they have a lot of young players, under Yawney the team played extraordinarily undisciplined hockey. They led the league last year in 5-3 advantages against, had the league's worst power play, and were 2nd in total penalty minutes accumulated. And Yawney was brought in to turn that around with his supposed connection to the younger players that came through the farm system. He didn't. It was not getting any better and his defensive-minded style of play was choking off all the skilled players.

I think the mark of a bad coach is a team that continues to take stupid penalties. It means that he's just not getting through to his players. My brother has always said that the mark of a truly bad coach is when good players go out with injuries and the team totally tanks. In both cases, Yawney's team was guilty. And therefore, he deserved to get the ax.

Promoting Savard isn't a great move, but its not a terrible one either. It pisses me off as aChicago guy, because Wirtz is a complete bastard who only promotes from within and never goes out looking for "the best guy". But, Savard has been around as an assistant long enough (and lived through lorne molleken) so he probably was due for a shot.

As for games on TV...neither one of you is totally correct. In the mid-80s Wirtz, and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf formed Sportsvision (which eventually became Fox Sports) which was essentially a pay channel a la HBO. A monthly subscription got you all the white sox, bulls, and blackhawks games. It was a tremendous failure, mostly because the Sox were terrible at that time and the Cubs were on the free WGN9. Today, Wirtz still stubbornly refuses to broadcast home games to basic or cable TV, but has slightly softened his stance. There are 6 home games on the TV schedule this year. The rest are blacked out (even if the stadium sells out) to the chicagoland market.

Here's a link to a really in-depth article about the debacle that was Sportsvision:


Yes, Wirtz is absolutely the reason this team is no longer commercially viable in Chicago. He has created nothing but ill will among the once proud Chicago faithful. This is the first time in 14 years I will not be attending a Blackhawks game (I attended 10 last year and 13 in 03) and I won't go until again until they bring the playoffs back. I liked the Havlat signing, but I didn't like that once again Tallon got creamed in the free agent market and a trade was his only option to bring in a legit scorer. Until Wirtz sells the team (and it can't happen soon enough) there will continue to be people that will constantly resent the Hawks for everything Wirtz has done. Even after he sells, it will take years before they are restored to any semblence of their previous glory.
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