New St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock met with the media today, less than 24 hours after replacing former bench boss Davis Payne. The presser introduced Hitch as the 24th head coach in franchise history, although a more apropos introduction might’ve been “St. Louis’ fourth head coach in the last five years.”
Here are a few of the more choice quotes from Hitch and the man that hired him, general manager Doug Armstrong. Should mention that Hitch started things off by saying he was shocked to get the call last night (he was driving his car when he picked up) and “within a couple of hours” he and Armstrong had agreed on a deal.
Hitch on taking the job: “When this call came, I’m all about the people you work with with and I’ve known John (Davidson) since John was small and a goalie in the Western Hockey League, and I’ve known Doug (Armstrong) for 18 years, so I knew the working relationship. I just felt that I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity to work with these people. I couldn’t miss it.”
Hitch on his voluminous research: “”One of the things I did over the last one-and-a-half years is study every team closely. I have a six- or eight-game report on every team … I’ve watched every team play at least four times this year very closely and I’ve done it in preparation of the next gig. I assumed that if I went into a team, I better be ready on the scouting report.”
[NB: Sounds an awful lot like Andy Murray, a notorious stickler for detail that would prepare massive opposition scouting reports. Also, the same coach St. Louis fired less than two years ago.]
Armstrong on why he made the change: “It’s something when I looked at our team and saw the way we were progressing, there were postmarks that you look for in management. I felt where we are at right now, we needed an experienced coach, someone that could guide this younger team to the area it wants to go to. I just felt that I wanted the certainty of a head coach with a proven track record, a winner, to push these young players and push this organization to the next level.
Armstrong on why he made the change now: “I think it was very important that I didn’t wait around. If I had that feeling, I shared it with (Davidson). We talked extensively over it. He gave me the full support to continue down that path. When you’re going through this process, you have to look at all the potential candidates. Ken was on that list… Everything came back to Ken’s resume, what he’s accomplished. I’ve seen him first hand as an assistant manager mold a team (in Dallas). I’ve saw him take a young, exciting Philadelphia Flyers team to Game 7 of the semifinals. I saw him take a Columbus team and provide structure and got them into the playoffs. I just thought he had all the attributes we needed moving forward.”
[Possible translation: “Payne was fine, but lacked experience. We didn’t have time to wait for him to get it.”]
One final note on the timing of the move: Payne led St. Louis to a 6-7-0 record despite a brutal opening schedule. Nine of the Blues’ first 13 games were on the road; after starting the year with two games at home they went 11 days between their second and third home games and 13 days between the third and fourth.
But Hitch? Hitch gets to take over as the Blues begin a five-game homestand on Tuesday, and they’ll actually play seven of their next nine at Scottrade. As they say, timing is everything…