Calgary Flames

Calgary Flames Head Coach Candidate Profile: Marc Savard

The Calgary Flames head coaching search is in full-swing as reports have surfaced that the interviewing process has begun with potential candidates. We’ve heard a few veteran names thrown around as potential options, however one of the younger and more inexperienced names that has surfaced recently is former Flame Marc Savard. Not only was Savard’s name suggested as a candidate, it’s now believed that he’s already interviewed for the role.

That’s quite the development as I don’t think anyone had Savard on their list when Darryl Sutter was relived of his duties, and now he appears to be one of the team’s primary candidates. Savard has been making waves in the OHL as an up and coming NHL coach, so it makes sense that the Flames have brought him in as a candidate.

Who is Marc Savard

If you’re a Flames fan, you’ll be familiar with Savard for all the wrong reasons. Savard was actually dealt to the Flames as a player all the way back in 1999 when he was just 21 years old, and would spend parts of four seasons with the team. Savard would unfortunately suffer an injury during the 2001–02 season that saw him lose his spot alongside Jarome Iginla to none other than Craig Conroy. That spelled the beginning of the end for Savard in Calgary, as he would never reclaim his top line spot and eventually requested a trade due to a lack of playing time and issues with coach Greg Gilbert.

We all know what happened next, as Savard would be dealt for Ruslan Zaynullin and go on to have an incredibly successful NHL career as one of the league’s premier playmaking centres. Unfortunately Savard would run into concussion issues and was forced to retire in 2011 at the age of 34, but there’s no denying how good he was at his peak.

Savard would take a few years off due to the aforementioned concussion issues, however he would get back into hockey in 2019–20 as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues. The Blues ranked second in the NHL when the season was paused due to COVID-19, but would be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Savard would only spend one season in the role before moving to the OHL to become the head coach of the Windsor Spitfires in 2021. Savard is of course an OHL legend and had an illustrious career in the league with 413 points including 281 assists in just 238 games.

In his first season in Windsor, Savard helped lead the Spitfires to the second best record in the OHL as well as the OHL championship final where they would lose in seven games. This most recent season, Savard’s Spitfires once again claimed top spot in the Western Conference and were expected to go on another long playoff run. Unfortunately Windsor was stunned by the eighth-seed Kitchener Rangers in four games and knocked out in round one.

Savard brings an elite offensive mind

As mentioned, Savard is certainly not a name that many people had penciled down as a candidate for the Flames head coaching vacancy. That said, he certainly fits the reported style of play the Flames are hoping to introduce next season. With the team now focused more on producing offence under Conroy, Savard fits the bill of a coach who can achieve that.

Savard was of course an incredibly gifted offensive player with a great hockey IQ, and can no doubt transfer that skillset to a head coaching role. Here’s how Savard described his coaching style in a recent interview with the Hockey News.

“I want my players to play freely. They understand that if they make a play in the offensive zone and it ends up being a mistake, they need to get back defensively and try to make up for it. They’ll know they made the mistake so they know they have to take accountability. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them playing up-tempo hockey.”

Marc Savard on his coaching style

“Playing freely.” That’s certainly a term that we didn’t hear about the Flames last season under Sutter. Instead the team seemed like they were scared to make a mistake which completely eliminated any creativity in their game. Under Savard it sounds like it would be the complete opposite. Here’s another quote from Savard on how he wants to utilize his defencemen.

“People talk about playing fast, but what is playing fast? It’s playing a fast mental game and pushing the puck up ice. I don’t love when defenders go D-to-D—I’d rather them skate with it and draw pressure to open up new passing lanes.”

Marc Savard on utilizing defencemen

Again Savard emphasizes playing an open offensive game and pushing the puck up ice, starting from the backend. The Flames have some strong puck carrying defencemen on their team and playing under a coach with the mindset of Savard would give them and the team a huge boost.

History of offensive success

Savard may have a short history behind the bench, but wherever he’s gone he’s helped his team offensively. In particular an area that the Flames desperately need help with is their power play that ranked 19th in the NHL last season. Although his time in St. Louis was short, Savard had a major impact on the Blues’ power play success.

SeasonBlues PP%League rank
2018–19 (Pre-Savard)21.1%10th

Before being hired the Blues power play registered at a clip of 21.1%—good for 10th in the NHL. During Savard’s only season in St. Louis where he coached the team’s power play, they saw a bump to 24.26% and ranked as the NHL’s third best power play. It may not seem like a huge jump, but Savard took the team’s powerplay from good to borderline elite.

One hallmark of the Blues power play that season was puck movement and the speed at which Savard wanted his power play to move the puck around. If anyone has watched a power play under Kirk Muller, you’ll know how desperately the Flames need better puck movement with the man-advantage.

Savard has continued that success in the OHL as the Spitfires have been one of the OHL’s best teams offensively since he came on board in 2020. On both the power play and overall, the Spitfires have been incredibly successful under Savard.

SeasonPP%League RankGFLeague Rank

Savard’s experience as a head coach is obviously extremely limited, however in his two years in Windsor the Spitfires have been arguably the best offensive team in the entire OHL. In both seasons under Savard they’ve had a top three power play in the league, and also led the league in goals. That’s obviously a positive sign for what he can do as a coach. Coaching at the NHL level is much different, but there’s no questioning the offensive success Savard’s team has had in the OHL.

Savard can identify with the Flames’ skilled players

Another area where Savard could provide value is in his ability to communicate and connect with the Flames skilled players. It’s no secret that Sutter didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with most of the Flames’ top players. When a coach has a better relationship with his depth guys than his stars, that’s not a great recipe for success.

Sutter has been widely criticized for his lack of communication, so hiring a former star player turned coach in Savard could be a great way to re-establish that communication with the team’s most important players. Just take a look at another former Flame Martin St. Louis’ work in Montreal. Skilled players like Cole Caufield struggled under a previous stern coach in Montreal, however St. Louis has come in and worked wonders for his team’s top players.

Like St. Louis, Savard doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience but what he does have is a history in the NHL as a star player and that’s a big benefit in a modern NHL locker room. Given how last season went, this Flames roster and in particular their star players are desperate for a more player friendly coach who can actually work with them.

An outside shot for Savard

Savard may be a bit of a longshot to actually land the Flames head coaching gig due to his lack of history and experience behind a bench, however there’s no denying the skillset he brings to the tablet. As a former star player and offensive minded coach, Savard brings the exact toolkit that the Flames were missing last season. Whether or not the team wants to give such an inexperienced coach the main job behind the bench is up for debate, but even as an assistant coach Savard would be a great fit.

Calgary Flames 2023 Head Coach Candidate Profiles

June 12, 2023 Update: Ryan Huska has been named head coach of the Calgary Flames! Check out Huska’s coaching profile for more information on him.

Here are past individual profiles on all the potential head coaches the Flames should or shouldn’t have considered for the new job:

Gerard Gallant | Mitch Love | Bruce Boudreau | Marc Savard | Pascal Vincent | Andrew Brunette

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