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Losing Marc Savard as power play coach is unfortunate after positive steps taken at the end of 2023-24

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Photo credit:Brett Holmes-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
25 days ago
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It was announced on May 22 that the Calgary Flames and assistant coach Marc Savard have mutually agreed to part ways. The team is in the market for a new voice to help lead the power play, something the Flames have struggled with for a solid chunk of time.
Flames general manager Craig Conroy said in the release: “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. We wish Marc success with his future endeavors in the game.”
Despite Savard’s short tenure with the club, it was clear he was trying to make changes to something that has ailed the Flames in recent seasons and has surely cost them better positioning for playoff races down the stretch. Now, whether or not that’s actually a good thing for the franchise is one thing, but the players have a goal to make the postseason, and getting the power play back on track is a huge step to doing that.
But the real question surrounding the team and the execution of this move is: Were Savard’s power play struggles this season really the team’s fault? Or was it due to a lack of strong pieces able to make the power play work cohesively?
It’s hard to say that the answer is one way or another. There certainly could have been adjustments made to the personnel on the power play units, and we saw a huge improvement after Andrei Kuzmenko was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the Elias Lindholm trade. His goal-scoring ability opened up another avenue for a legitimate scoring threat on the man advantage, forcing teams to defend the Flames differently in that scenario.
Even in scenarios where the Flames weren’t set up on the power play, the opposition needed to find their way into shooting lanes against Kuzmenko; otherwise, it would cost them, like on this goal here:
Or it may even cost them on chances like this, which don’t go in but are important to have for plenty of different reasons. A great pass set up this scoring chance that Kuzmenko ripped off the post:
The addition of Kuzmenko certainly helped, but it felt as if the Flames were also getting more comfortable with the different units and more confident in their ability to move passes through the seams and create scoring chances or goals. Under Savard, there was much more off-puck movement, low-to-high plays, and seam passes, especially off the stick of Huberdeau, no matter if he was operating on the left or right side.
Here’s a lucky bounce, but the puck movement is evident:
A great play at the line keeps this one moving, but once again, freeing up space for Hanifin to shoot (especially after the initial play before the attempted clear, he finds himself open on the same side he scores from through off-puck movement)
And, finally, some more strong puck movement and another concept we saw come to fruition more toward the end of the season: condensing the penalty kill unit into a smaller area when given the chance, allowing not only more space out wide for more creativity but also more high-danger chances no matter where you shoot from:
Even though the power play wasn’t as good as many hoped it would be under Savard, there were still plenty of good things to take away from it, especially toward the end of the season. Early in the year, it felt as if there was a mix of trying to learn the new system and adjust to a completely different philosophy than what had been taught previously (both at even strength and on the power play), as well as a lack of the right personnel on the ice to make the things Savard wanted to happen, happen.
It’s rather unfortunate to see Savard leave the organization after the positive steps forward the Flames power play took under his tutelage, but the hope is that he finds success in the next venture he ends up in. But now, it’s time for Calgary to find a coach that can teach the power play to be as consistent and dynamic in their execution as they were in the back-half of 2023-24, which will help players regain confidence and get them closer to their ultimate goal of returning to the NHL post-season.

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