Davis Payne

Blues fire Payne, hire Hitchcock


The St. Louis Blues have fired head coach Davis Payne and hired Ken Hitchcock as his replacement.

The coaching change can’t be considered a huge surprise as the talented Blues (6-7-0) have underachieved early this season. Payne has been behind the bench in St. Louis since taking over from Andy Murray halfway through the 2009-10 campaign. Payne failed to lead the Blues to the playoffs in either season, though 2010-11 was his only full one in charge.

The hiring of Hitchcock is more of a surprise as he was reportedly close to replacing Scott Arniel in Columbus. The St. Louis job will surely give the veteran coach a better chance to make the playoffs come April. In fact, you have to wonder if he had a choice between the two jobs. You also have to wonder if this is the reason Arniel is still employed after last night’s embarrassing loss in Philadelphia. Feel free to speculate on that.

Hitchcock has coached three NHL teams – Dallas, Philadelphia and Columbus – winning the 1999 Stanley Cup with the Stars. He’s not exactly known as a players’ coach, which might suggest Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes his young team needs a taskmaster in charge.

Hitchcock and Armstrong have a history together; the latter was the assistant general manager with the Stars when they won the Cup.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.