Sports Outside the Beltway

Chicago Blackhawks fire coach Denis Savard

He was replaced by former Blues and Avalanche head coach, Joel Quennville. From ESPN-

The Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Denis Savard just four games into the season on Thursday, replacing him with NHL coaching veteran Joel Quenneville.

“I’m disappointed but I guess it’s the nature of the business,” Savard said from his Chicago home Thursday.

Savard, who was in the last year of his contract, was told he’d been fired Thursday morning by general manager Dale Tallon.

The firing of Denis Savard after just four games did not rank as a record for an NHL coaching change.

• Bill Gadsby left the Detroit Red Wings after just two games of the 1969-70 season.

• Fred Glover departed the California Golden Seals after three games at the start of the 1971-72 season and went on to coach 68 games as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

• In 2001-02 the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Ivan Hlinka, the first European-born and trained NHL coach (along with Alpo Suhonen who coached in Chicago at the same time) after the Penguins lost the first four games of the season.

• Jacques Demers saw his tenure as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens end after four games at the outset of the 1995-96 season ( indicates Demers coached five games that season).

So there is ample precedent for Chicago’s move. Was the firing a good decision?

The dismissal came hours after the team won its first game by beating Phoenix 4-1. The Blackhawks are now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard’s abrupt ouster.

Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then, he has hired former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru John McDonough as president. The team has mended fences with former stars such as Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised — something Bill Wirtz was opposed to — and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.


Quenneville, who had been working as a scout for the Blackhawks, coached the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 through 2008 and led the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons (1996-2004). He has a 438-283-118 career record, including a 44-31-7 mark in Colorado last season.

Led by sophomore stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have high hopes to make it into the playoffs this season. They lost their first three games before finally winning Wednesday night.

Chicago is both young and talented. Will Quennville make a difference? He was good in St. Louis, but Colorado underacheived under Quennville. So I’m a little skeptical because of it being too early to judge a coach, being its only 4 games into the season.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

In the wake of Thursday’s Denis Savard firing (the worst part of my job is calling a guy like that at home on a day like this), I thought to myself: Here’s an organization that employs the greatest coach of all time in Scotty Bowman.

Why not give him the gig?

“No, no, my coaching days ended six years ago,” Bowman, a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Hawks, told me.

Another reason Bowman may not want to coach- his age. He’s seventy-five-years-old. Very old to be starting a new and stressful job anywhere in professional sports. Maybe more so when you are talking one of America’s biggest cities.


Florida Panthers’ Noah Welch plans to donate his brain

At age 26, don’t you think it would too early for the defensemen to end his life. From the Palm Beach Post-

Welch is donating his brain.

The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed to give his brain to the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit studying the effects of concussions and other sports-related brain injuries on athletes. Like traditional organ donations, this contribution to science will be made upon Welch’s death. Until then, SLI will run intermittent tests on Welch as part of the joint project with Boston University’s School of Medicine.

“I didn’t really think much about it, to be honest with you,” Welch said, no pun intended.

Maybe SLI should re-consider the offer. Welch admits to making a big decision without thinking!

Welch is the only active athlete among 19 pros who have agreed to donate their brain to SLI.

Welch is helping a noble cause and I applaud him for it.


Washington limits Vancouver to just 10 shots on goal

The Canucks scored a goal in the first 70 seconds and after that it was all down hill.

Washington Capitals goalie Brent Johnson let the Vancouver Canucks’ first shot into his net and finished with only nine saves. The Capitals’ star, reigning league scoring champion Alex Ovechkin, was held without a point.

Sounds like a formula for a Washington loss? No way. That’s because the Capitals broke their franchise record by limiting the Canucks to a total of 10 shots Monday night, Alexander Semin scored twice and Michael Nylander made a penalty shot, lifting Washington to a 5-1 victory.

“After the first five minutes, we were just all over them. They couldn’t get out of their zone,” said Johnson, who didn’t have to work too hard to earn his 100th NHL win. “We do that to every team, and it’s going to be tough to get in our zone and put any pressure on us.”

I checked the early season stats on Washington. The Capitals have allowed 62 shots on goal, or an average of 26 for their other two games. What Johnson said may be correct, but at the same time you got to consider Vancouver is one of the weakest offensive teams in the NHL.


Tommy Bowden out as Clemson coach

The son of Florida’s Bobby Bowden, stepped down after 9.5 years at the school.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Tommy Bowden decided he’d done all he could do for Clemson football, telling his athletic director Monday he’d step aside for the future of the program.

AD Terry Don Phillips said his intent Monday morning was to have a candid, heart-to-heart with Bowden about the football team. So Phillips was surprised when Bowden offered to walk away in midseason.

“There wasn’t a gun to his head,” Phillips said.

“He put it on the table for the sake of the program,” Phillips said. “I agreed.”


Assistant head coach and receivers coach Dabo Swinney will take over the club. Phillips urged him to act like the team’s head coach and make difficult decisions knowing he had the administration’s full backing.

It’s a far fall for a team some figured to contend for a national title.

The year began with the Tigers ranked No. 9 and picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. But an opening 34-10 rout by Alabama and recent losses to Maryland and Wake Forest raised calls again for Bowden’s ouster despite the contract extension that tied him to the school through 2014.


Clemson went 72-45 (43-32 ACC) and made eight bowl appearances under Bowden, who was honored as ACC coach of the year in 1999 and 2003. But the son of storied football coach Bobby Bowden never brought Clemson fans what they wanted most — a championship.

Bowden will be paid through the end of the season, then get $3.5 million as a buyout negotiated in the contract extension both sides agreed to last December.

Bowden’s tenure at Clemson was hardly a bust. Clemson officials and boosters suffer from delusions of grandeur if they feel this school can become a perennial powerhouse. It won’t. The school got a national championship around 25 years ago. It wouldn’t surprise me if Clemson went another 25 before winning one. Bowden couldn’t change Clemson and neither will his successor.

Will Tommy Bowden be considered for the Florida State job when his father retires, or is it already set that Jimbo Fisher will be the Seminoles’ next head coach?


Romo Out 4 Weeks with Broken Pinkie

The underperforming Dallas Cowboys’ prospects of quickly fixing their problems just took a dramatic downward turn with news that two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo has a broken finger in his throwing hand and will miss up to four weeks.

Romo, who had started 30 straight games since replacing Drew Bledsoe in 2006, broke his right pinkie on the first play of overtime in a 30-24 loss at Arizona on Sunday, according to a posting on the team’s official Web site. The injury will not require surgery, a member of the Cowboys’ medical staff told’s Matt Mosley.

Veteran quarterback Brad Johnson, the Cowboys’ holder on kicks, is Romo’s backup. The 40-year-old Johnson, who won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay, hasn’t started a game since 2006 in Minnesota.

Romo missed on three straight passes to start the overtime. He passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns despite heavy pressure. He was sacked three times and hit several other times.

Frankly, given Romo’s dismal performance the last two weeks — and, especially, yesterday — it was hard to tell the difference. But there’s simply no question that Romo’s leaps and bounds the best QB on the Cowboys’ roster.

Through Sunday’s games, Romo ranks second in NFC passing with a 103.5 rating. He has thrown for 14 touchdowns and been intercepted five times.

The report is aptly titled “Bad Gets Worse.”

For now, the Cowboys will go as is at the quarterback position, turning the 4-2 Cowboys over to veteran backup Brad Johnson, with third quarterback Brooks Bollinger serving as the No. 2 guy in Romo’s absence. Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips will update the situation at his 1:30 (CDT) Monday press conference carried live on

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, and certainly the Cowboys will canvass the league for any available candidates, but sensed desperation certainly would drive up the price if the Cowboys are even thinking about bringing in another quarterback for the time being.

And with Johnson and Bollinger having to spend their time preparing to run the Cowboys’ offense, the Cowboys might be forced to sign a practice squad quarterback to run the scout team. Richard Bartel, last year’s practice squad quarterback, has worked out for several teams since being released when the club signed Bollinger to the 53-man roster but hasn’t been signed and would be available for emergency practice squad duty.

The silver lining is that the team has three games, and only one divisional game, during the four weeks, followed with a bye.

Sun, Oct 19 @ St. Louis (FOX) NOON
Sun, Nov 2 @ New York Giants (FOX) 3:15 PM
Sun, Nov 9 BYE

The Rams just beat the Redskins, so it’s not a gimme, but even a Johnson-led Cowboys team ought to be able to win it. Tampa will be the favorite but, again, it’s a winnable game. Presuming the Giants stay healthy, though, they’ll be heavy favorites at home on November 2 and have a chance to all but wrap up the division title very early.


In-Kyung Kim wins the Longs Drugs Challenge

Prior to yesterday no South Korean golfer had won an LPGA event since early August.

In-Kyung Kim couldn’t help but cry after holing a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to wrap up her first LPGA Tour victory.

“I was overwhelmed,” Kim said. “It was a happy cry.”

The 20-year-old South Korean player birdied the final two holes in windy conditions Sunday for a 1-over 73 and a three-stroke victory over Angela Stanford in the Longs Drugs Challenge.

Kim, the 2005 U.S. Girls’ Junior winner, had a 10-under 278 total on the Blackhawk Country Club course. The second-year player earned $180,000.

“I’m on process, getting better,” Kim said. “This is just the start in my career. I’m really honored to win this tournament on this golf course.”

Stanford, the Bell Micro LPGA Classic winner last month, finished with a 75.

“When you have weather like that and wind like that, you always have a chance,” Stanford said. “I knew she wasn’t going to back up very far, just because she’s very consistent. She’s a good putter.”

LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng (72) was third at 6 under, and top-ranked Lorena Ochoa (72) finished fourth at 4 under.

Kim struggled down the stretch, missing a short birdie putt on No. 13 and bogeying the 14th and 16th holes. She nearly drove into a creek on the par-4 17th, but caught a fairway bunker, hit her approach to 8 feet and made her birdie putt.

“At 17, I had a bad (drive). Awful to the left,” Kim said. “I thought I was dead. I was fortunately in the bunker. … That’s kind of my favorite shot. I remember I had that shot before. I just had a vision of how I was going to hit it.”- USA Today

The two month victory drought is much shorter than the recent ten month one suffered by the South Korean ladies. It beginning in July 2007 after Seon Hwa Lee won the HSBC Matchplay and not ending till Lee won again at the Ginn Tribute last June. When they’re winning, you sometimes hear complaints from fans and media alike about the South Korean dominance of the LPGA. However when I was covering a tournament in Florida last April, two members of the media were surprised when I told them of the victory drought.

Park, who was a LPGA rookie in 2007, is a good golfer. How much further success she will have on tour, I’d only be guessing at. The only young South Korean player I expect to be a star for certain, is defending Women’s British Open Champ Ji-Yai Shin. Ji-Yai took a wrecking ball to Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak’s KLPGA records. The only question about Shin is when will she come to play the LPGA full-time? She has an exemption because of her British Open triumph but hasn’t made it clear if she plans on playing the tour in 2009.

If Shin does, she would be my hands down choice for LPGA rookie of the year. If not, Vicki Hurst who was number one on the Duramed Futures Tour money list in 2008 and is half Korean, would be my next choice.

The South Korean invasion is here to stay. I suspect a good amount of players will begin coming from India and mainland China also within the next ten years. Pro golf is global today, and US dominance of the sport isn’t guaranteed any more.


NHL suspends Michael Peca for bumping ref

The incident happened in a game Friday night. From AP-

Columbus Blue Jackets center Michael Peca has been suspended indefinitely by the NHL for making contact with an on-ice official.

The team and league announced the suspension on Saturday. Peca was automatically suspended per Rule 41, Physical Abuse of Officials, Category 2.

He was assessed a game misconduct penalty at 5:21 of the second period of the Blue Jackets’ season opener on Friday night at Dallas, which they went on to win 5-4 on Rick Nash’s goal in overtime.


Peca, an alternate captain, has appealed but will remain suspended pending a hearing to be scheduled next week.

If Peca bumped the ref, he deserves some kind of suspension. That behavior should never be condoned.


Alabama Screwed in Both Polls

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide went into the weekend ranked #2, having beaten then-#9 Clemson and then-#4 Georgia on the road thus far this season.  The #1 ranked team, Oklahoma, got beaten by #5 Texas.   So, Alabama’s #1, right?

Not so fast.

Texas leapfrogged five spots to take the #1 spot in both the AP and USA Today polls.

It’s a travesty.

Look, Texas could well be the best team in the country.  Then again, there was a strong argument to be made that Alabama was that two weeks ago when it pummeled Georgia in the dogpound.  It’s simply a joke, though, for them not to move up while being undefeated, having beaten two top ten teams, and playing in the top football conference in the land.

Gentry Estes says the Tide may be better off at #2, which I find rather dubious.  He’s right, though, that “At this point, there is no way Alabama could win out and not find itself in the BCS title game.”

There’s still a lot of football to play.  Alabama hasn’t been ranked #1 during the regular season since 1980.  They won the 1992-93 national championship by going in as the #2 team and whomping then-#1 Miami and the Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torreta.   But they deserved the top spot given their performance this year so far.


Former MLB Pitcher Bruce Dal Canton dead at 66

He was mostly a relief pitcher in the 60′s and 70′s who then had a long career as a pitching coach. Dal Canton was the a rarity on a couple of fronts,- He was discovered at a tryout camp by the Pirates and Bruce was a Knuckleball pitcher. I certainly saw Dal Canton pitch during his career but remember little except his throwing the knuckler. RIP


Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

The Fins(2-2) play at Houston(0-4) this afternoon. Miami is coming off wins against the two teams(New England and San Diego) that made it to the AFC Championship game last January. On the other hand Houston blew a 17 pt lead to Indianapolis last weekend. Houston has won all three times they and Miami have played.

Will today be different? I think it will, so I’m predicting Miami 24, Houston 14.


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