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Too Little, Too Late: A review of Marc Savard’s power play

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Marc Savard Calgary Flames

 

Per the Calgary Flames, the organization and Offensive Coach Marc Savard have mutually agreed to part ways.

Savard served as offensive coach for the Flames and Blues for one season each over the last four years. The Ottawa, Ontario, native joined the Windsor Spitfires for two seasons in between those jobs

“We would like to thank Marc for his commitment last season and also for his professionalism during this process to arrive at today’s decision,” Flames General Manager Craig Conroy said of Savard departure. “We wish Marc success with his future endeavors in the game.”

Prior to coaching, Savard played 807 games in the NHL over 19 seasons. The left shot playmaking center recorded 207 goals and 499 assists for 706 points with the Rangers, Flames, Thrashers, and Bruins.

 

A Sputtering Start

Flames fans were generally underwhelmed with the offensive results of Savard’s offensive coordination. By the end of November, Calgary’s power play had posted a meagre 11% conversion rate, scoring only eight goals in 84 opportunities.

Improvement didn’t come quickly. December and January saw the Flames move up to a 16.5% success rate. 13 goals in 79 attempts as Savard ironed attempted to get a lethargic Flames crew to set up various tic-tack-toe plays involving the far side defender to stretch the play wide before looking for a backdoor pass/rebound option in front of the opposing net.

 

Various power play strategies were piloted as the 2023-2024 regular season carried on to little avail. With high-end offensive talents such as Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm departing the organization via trade and newcomer Andrei Kuzmenko battling severe illness, the Flames went 10-for-57 from February 1 to March 17; good for a 17.5% scoring rate with the man advantage.

 

The click

With the Flames limping to the finish line following the departure of first pairing defencemen Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin, Savard’s power play finally started scoring.

Despite going 5-10-0, a healthy Andrei Kuzmenko carried the first unit to the best numbers in the Western conference.

Calgary’s power play vaulted up to second place in the NHL in the final 30 days of the season (Mar. 18 and Apr 18) with a 32% conversion rate. Only the New york Rangers at 33.3% were scoring at a higher rate.

Nazem Kadri (eight points), Jonathan Huberdeau, and Yegor Sharangovich (seven points each) found themselves in the top 25 in powerplay scoring across that span.

The Flames scored 14 goals in 43 opportunities, and Kuzmenko tied for fourth in the NHL in power play production, scoring three goals and six assists for nine points over that time.

An increase in urgency with the puck, moving Kuzmenko to the “handle” of the umbrella formation, and a schedule that included eight lower-placing teams in the final 16 games all contributed to this extreme jump in productivity.

Calgary’s final power play goal with Savard running the offence.

 

Moving on

Amid heavy speculation this week that Savard intends to join Craig Berube, the newly hired head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 46-year-old is now free to sign with a new team. Berube and Savard worked together as head coach and assistant coach in St. Louis.

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