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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Hitchcock Gets the Boot As Blues Scramble For Answers

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Hitchcock Gets the Boot

For over 20 years, Ken Hitchcock has been one of the NHL’s best coaches. Hitchcock has coached the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues, taking every team to the playoffs at least once and winning a Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. Since 2012, Hitchcock had been coaching the St. Louis Blues, turning them into a perennial Stanley Cup contender, almost getting the team to the finals just last season. Entering the year, Hitchcock openly expressed that the rigors of an NHL season were beginning to get to him, and that he wanted to retire at season’s end. Mike Yeo was slated to take over coaching duties next year, but despite this plan, the Blues decided that it would be best to send Hitchcock into an early retirement, and enact their succession plan early.
Hitchcock was fired on Feb. 1, with the Blues clinging to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. At the time of the firing, St. Louis held a record of 24-21-5 with 53 points. The Blues have a roster that could contend for a Stanley Cup, so the front office is clearly feeling a little impatient about the team’s quest for the playoffs. Many expected that the team would make the postseason without worry, but winning might be problematic. However, past the midway point, the team felt that there was enough uncertainty there to fire a coach that would be retiring at season’s end anyway.
The problem for St. Louis certainly hasn’t been with the offense. The Blues are eleventh in the league in goals per game at 2.80. They have one of the best scorers in the NHL in Valdimir Tarasenko, not to mention very proficient scorers in Paul Stastny, Alex Steen, and Jaden Schwartz. They also boast two excellent puck moving defense men in Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The major problem for St. Louis has been in net. Over his tenure, Ken Hitchcock was able to enjoy solid goal tending from Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot. However, the team felt that they had the next big thing in net with Jake Allen, only it has not panned out that way for the team. Allen has gone 17-13-3 with a .895 save percentage.
They then tried out Carter Hutton, the team’s backup, who went 7-7-2 with a .896 save percentage. These are abysmal numbers for a starting goaltender. With that kind of production in net, it is not likely the Blues make the playoffs regardless of however much offensive production they have.
Hopefully the coaching change gives St. Louis the final push they need in their sprint for the playoffs. Unless Mike Yeo happens to be the goalie whisperer, I don’t see them getting into the playoffs without obtaining some help in net via trade. It is very unfortunate that a fantastic coach has to end his career by being fired in his last season, especially when it is due to hasty front office moves that hurt the team’s roster. I congratulate Ken Hitchcock on a marvelous career, and hope to see him stay involved with the league and the sport of hockey that he has represented so well over a 22-year career.