The St. Louis Blues raised a few eyebrows upon announcing the firing of head coach Davis Payne and the hiring of his replacement, Ken Hitchcock. Payne was regarded as one of the NHL’s better young coaches and Hitchcock was rumored for the Columbus job once the Jackets put Scott Arniel out of his misery.
But there was another wrinkle to the decision, one that played a big role in raising those eyebrows. The hiring of Hitch had a real turn-back-the-clock feel to it, mostly because of his history with Blues GM Doug Armstrong.
The two won a Stanley Cup together in Dallas in 1999, with Hitch the head coach and Armstrong the assistant to GM Bob Gainey. Apparently, Armstrong was quite fond of his time in Dallas…because he’s since loaded up the St. Louis organization with a bunch of his old cronies.
Here’s an unofficial Doug Armstrong-Dallas-St. Louis flowchart.
Hitchcock: As discussed above.
Jamie Langenbrunner: Current Blues LW. Played under Hitch/Armstrong for six-and-a-half years in Dallas. Memorably posted 10G-7A-17PTS in 23 games during the 1999 Stanley Cup run.
Jason Arnott: Current Blues center. In Mar. 2002, Armstrong traded Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk (now the GM in Dallas, oddly enough) to New Jersey for Arnott, Randy McKay and a first-round pick.
Corey Hirsch: Current Blues goaltending coach. In 2002, Armstrong signed Hirsch to be the third goalie in Dallas behind Marty Turco and Ron Tugnutt.
Rob DiMaio: Current Blues professional scout. DiMaio played under Armstrong in Dallas for three years — one season with Hitch as head coach, one season as a teammate of Langenbrunner’s and two seasons as a teammate of Arnott’s.
Now, keep in mind this isn’t a rarity. The NHL is like six degrees of Kevin Bacon when it comes to filling out a staff/roster — decision-makers will generally tend to go with who they know rather than who they don’t. That said, it’s somewhat amusing to watch Armstrong get the band back together and party like it’s 1999.
Could the call to Sergei Zubov be next?
Anybody got Richard Matvichuk on speed dial?