Marc Savard is joining the NHL coaching ranks. The former center was announced as a new assistant coach for the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, focusing on the power play.
“I’ve picked up a lot of stuff on a lot of the power plays and what works, and what doesn’t," Savard told reporters via conference call. "I think I’ll be able to bring a lot of adjustments and new looks and help the Blues have a fresh look, different options. They have a lot of great pieces and if I’m able to work with them, I think we should be right up there in the league in power play next season.”
Savard, 42, joins head coach Craig Berube and assistants Steve Ott, Larry Robinson and Mike Van Ryn behind the Blues' bench eight years after he played his final NHL game. Health issues that arose due to multiple concussions sustained over the course of his career — including an infamous blindside hit to the head by former Penguin Matt Cooke in 2010 — forced Savard to prematurely step away from the game. The former New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins forward officially announced his retirement from hockey on Jan. 22, 2018.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) July 24, 2019
Last year, St. Louis boasted the league's tenth-best power play in the regular season, scoring on 21.1% of chances; however, they struggled in the playoffs connecting on just 16.3% of power-play opportunities despite receiving more man advantages than any other team. Savard, who scored 706 points in 807 games, said he'll use his years of experience when working with the Blues' current group.
"It gets frustrating. I know at times stuff doesn’t always go well and you start gripping the stick a bit," said Savard, who netted 80 goals and 212 assists on the power play in 13 NHL seasons. "I’ve been there in those situations, so if I can help with my experience and help those great players — [Vladimir] Tarasenko, [David] Perron, [Brayden] Schenn, [Ryan] O’Reilly, and the defense core there — the list goes on.
"There’s a lot of great options, but bringing them all together, making them work together . . . I think there’s enough players there to have two solid units that kind of go off of each other and I think you have some guys that can be really successful [if] put in the right situations.”
Savard said he and Berube had "many, many discussions" about the Blues throughout the season after his former teammate was named interim head coach in November. The pair played together for the Flames from 2001-03 and have kept in close communication even after their careers took them separate ways. He even took a photo of his old friend hoisting the Cup on television, after St. Louis defeated his former team in the Stanley Cup Final, and sent it to Berube immediately after so he could have a photo of the moment as quickly as possible.
“When we talked when he did take the team over, it wasn’t so much power play," Savard, who won a Cup in 2011 with the Bruins, said on the call. "It was just talking as a bouncing point for him sometimes when he had tough times. He did a fantastic job and I won’t take credit for anything — again, we talked, but [he did a] marvelous job."
The Ottawa, Ont., native, had explored coaching opportunities in the Ontario Hockey League in recent years before dabbling in the media side of the game. While he and Berube had "roughly touched on" the concept of his joining the Blues this past spring, he was still surprised when his former teammate called him to officially offer the job.
"I didn’t know what to say," Savard said regarding the offer for his first-ever coaching job at the professional level. "I was so excited. I didn’t think it would come true this way, that it would work out, especially coming from the Stanley Cup champions."
Regardless of his lack of coaching experience, Savard does not imagine he'll have any trouble building relationships with players on St. Louis' roster.
“I’m more of a hands-on guy," he said. "I’m a hockey guy. I want to be around the players, I want to be around the team and help in the best way I can. I’m very capable in that aspect, so I really appreciate this opportunity that [GM] Doug Armstrong is giving me and hopefully I can prove [him] right that I can help out this team.”