After exploring NHL options, Savard elects to return to Spitfires as head coach for 2022-23

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Jim Parker  •  Windsor Star

After exploring NHL options, Marc Savard has decided to return to the Windsor Spitfires for the 2022-23 season.
After exploring NHL options, Marc Savard has decided to return to the Windsor Spitfires for the 2022-23 season. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

It will not be a one-and-done for Marc Savard tenure as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires.

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Speaking exclusively to the Star, Savard said that after exploring NHL opportunities, the paperwork has now been signed for him to return to the Spitfires for the 2022-23 season.

“I’ll be back for sure,” said Savard, who will turn 45 on Sunday. “I think we’ll have another great team.”

A highly skilled forward, Savard played more than 800 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Calgary, Atlanta and Boston before concussion issues cut his career short. He officially retired in 2018.

When Trevor Letowski left the Spitfires as head coach to join the Montreal Canadiens in an assistant’s role, the club hired Savard, who had no head coaching experience at the junior level.

“I hadn’t coached at this level, but always had good relationships,” Savard said. “Relationship stuff has to be good and I think that’s the way the game is going. You have to be honest with players and earn their trust.”

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Savard guided the Spitfires to a 44-17-4-3 record for 95 points, which was the fourth-best total in franchise history. The club also claimed its first West Division title and Western Conference title since 2010. Windsor had the league’s highest-scoring offence and the club pushed the Hamilton Bulldogs to a seventh and deciding game in the OHL final before being eliminated.

“We had a great year,” Savard said. “I loved the competition. I thought the league was excellent this year.

“I thought we got the most of what we had. I was proud of everybody.”

Several players had breakout seasons with Wyatt Johnston becoming the first Spitfire in a quarter century to win the league scoring title outright and he was the top-scoring player in the entire Canadian Hockey League.

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“Marc’s given me every opportunity to succeed,” said Johnston, who became just fourth player in franchise history to win the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player. 

The season was not even complete when Savard’s name began popping up as a potential head coaching candidate for the NHL’s Dallas Stars. His name later came up again when Boston, where he had played, also saw its head coaching post come open.

“We had a great year and it might have sped up the process,” Savard said of the interest.

But in the end, Savard was not offered a head coaching job. 

“Everything was basically an assistant coaching job at the next level,” said Savard, who said he spoke with a half dozen team. “I want to be a head guy.”

When he took the job with the Spitfires, Savard did not expect it to be a short-term arrangement. So, he’s not surprised or disappointed in returning to the Spitfires this fall.

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“I’m going to enjoy Windsor,” Savard said. “I enjoyed (last) season, the ownership and Billy (Bowler, the general manager). 

“I think what everyone wants at the end of the day is to get that call to the next level. If it takes me two, three, who knows, four years, I’ll bide my time and do that. I’d like to be a head coach.”

Savard said he learned a lot in his first season with the Spitfires, but knows he can also be better.

“I want to get better at my own craft,” said Savard, who said associate coach Jerrod Smith, assistant coach Andy Delmore and goalie coach Michael Leighton are also set to return.

“There are some things I’d like to change and there will be changes in my coaching style and things I can get better at.”

Savard has already agreed to be a guest speaker at the upcoming OHL Coaches Conference.

“I’ll do some stuff on the power play, which is what I’m most comfortable with,” Savard said.

And while he continues to work on his craft in the OHL, Savard will be pulling for first-time coaches at the NHL level like Montreal’s Martin St. Louis,  Chicago’s Luke Richardson, the New York Islanders Lane Lambert and Detroit’s Derek Lalonde to have success and potentially open doors in the future.

“The new blood’s starting to leak in slowly,” Savard said. “I hope the new guys do well and it will slowly continue to open.”

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