The Blues’ power play executed at its highest rate in 33 years this season, but it will need a new maestro for next season.
The team announced Friday that assistant coach Marc Savard, who was brought in to improve the power play after the 2018-19 season and did exactly that, was leaving the team to return home to his family in Ontario, Canada.
“Marc has decided to step away and will not coach in the National Hockey League in 2020-21,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement. “I want to thank Marc for his work with our coaches and players during his time in St. Louis and wish him nothing but the best.”
In their one season under Savard, 43, the Blues had the third best power play in the league, converting 24.3 percent of their chances with a man advantage, up from 21.1 (10th best) in their Stanley Cup-winning season. That’s the third-highest success rate in franchise history, behind 25.1 percent in 1969-70 and 24.4 percent in 1986-87. In the Stanley Cup Final against Boston in 2019, the Blues won despite their power play rather than because of it, converting on just one of 18 chances.
This was Savard’s first NHL coaching job, and his family had stayed behind in the Toronto area rather than moving to St. Louis. Savard’s 13-season NHL career had ended in 2011 because of concussions, and he had been working as an analyst for Hockey Night in Canada on the CBC and on Toronto Maple Leafs pregame and postgame shows on radio before taking the Blues job.
He had already been helping his former teammate, Craig Berube, even before that. When Berube took over as coach of the Blues in the 2018-19 season, he would call Savard and they would talk hockey.
Savard’s power play was based on quickly moving the puck, and while sometimes the team passed too much, the power play was a consistent producer, even with the team’s top scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, out for most of the season. In 10 of 71 games during the regular season, the power play produced more than one goal.
“He’s one of the main reasons why our power play was as high, to be honest with you,” Blues forward David Perron said after the season. “That’s what I believe.”
Though it wasn’t clear at the time, Perron may have known Savard’s departure was possible. “(He) is another really smart guy that I hope we bring back,” Perron said.
Berube said after the season ended that he expected his entire staff to be back. “They’re very good coaches,” he said, “very helpful for me.”
The NHL has targeted a December start for the 2020-21 season, but just what that season will look like remains in flux and a later start is quite possible.
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