When Ken Hitchcock was canned in the disappointing season after the Columbus Blue Jackets made their first (and only) playoff appearance, many attributed the move to the way he clashed with young players, particularly Nikita Filatov and Nik Zherdev. If those two “mercurial” Russians’ fall from grace wasn’t enough to strengthen Hitch’s side of the story, the way he’s handling a youth-laden roster in the St. Louis Blues adds another degree of clarifying hindsight, as this Associated Press story discusses.
During a 1½-year absence from coaching after getting fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hitchcock prepared mentally and physically for what might be his final shot. While scrutinizing rosters and doing his own job of scouting, Hitchcock embraced a workout routine and improved diet habits.
He gets points for trying to better relate to a younger generation and its reliance on social media.
“He didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring,” [John] Davidson said. “He made himself a better man, a better coach, so when the opportunity came around he’d be ready.”
Perhaps Hitchcock is a better man and coach, but he came into St. Louis with a pretty impressive resume to begin with. Even if it’s difficult to decide if his struggles to “relate” with guys like Filatov and Zherdev were more myth than reality, that concept drove Hitchcock to embrace a (relatively) kinder and gentler side.
In a way that might just ape the way Tom Coughlin softened up ever-so-slightly to keep his job with the New York Giants (and eventually win two Super Bowls), the “new” Hitchcock is paying off in his new gig – especially with guys who are still pretty new to the NHL.
Corey Perry will spearhead the leadership group looking to guide Canada to its second straight gold medal at the World Hockey Championships.
On Thursday, the Canadian contingent announced that Perry would captain the squad at this year’s tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Joining him in the leadership group will be Colorado’s Matt Duchene, and Buffalo’s Ryan O'Reilly.
“This is an energetic young team, and these three players bring a mixture of youth and experience in their leadership role on the ice and in the dressing room,” Canadian head coach Bill Peters said, per the Toronto Sun. “Their resumes speak for themselves — they know what it takes to compete at the highest level, and have all been part of pulling together Team Canada successes during these short-term events.”
Unlike Duchene and O’Reilly, Perry wasn’t a part of last year’s championship team, but does have extensive international experience. He was part of the Canadian teams that captured gold at the ’10 Olympics in Vancouver at the ’14 games in Sochi.
He’s also played in a pair of World Championships, but failed to medal both times.
In just a few short months, Trevor Daley has gone from not being a fit in Chicago to being an indispensable part of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The veteran defenseman played almost 30 minutes last night, by far the most of any Penguin. Despite the absence of Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh was able to beat the Capitals in overtime and take a 3-1 series lead back to Washington.
“It’s funny how this game works,” Daley said, per the Penguins’ website. “You stick with it and good things happen. I’m just grateful for the opportunity. I’m in a good place here. I’m enjoying it with a great group of guys. We just play. That’s been our motto since I got here, since (Mike Sullivan) got here – just play.”
Traded to Pittsburgh in December, with Rob Scuderi going to the Blackhawks, Daley’s strengths were immediately utilized by Sullivan. The Penguins’ new head coach came in emphasizing the importance of breakouts, and that suited Daley just fine.
“Over the years my game has been getting in the play, moving the puck,” Daley said after he was traded. “I’m not the biggest guy so I won’t push guys over. I get into areas quickly and try to be a good team guy.”
It was simply a good match. And for that, GM Jim Rutherford should be applauded. The Penguins are one game away from the Eastern Conference Final, and Daley is a big reason why.
Related: Penguins provided ‘fresh start’ for Daley
After not playing anywhere this year, longtime NHL blueliner Anton Volchenkov is back in action, having signed a deal with KHL club Admiral Vladivostok.
The deal, announced by Admiral on Thursday, puts Volchenkov back on a team for the first time since suiting up with Nashville during the ’14-15 campaign. He appeared in 46 games for the Preds, recording seven assists.
Prior to his time in Nashville, Volchenkov in over 600 games with the Senators and Devils. He’d established a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting d-man, but struggled with injury and mobility in the later stages of his time in New Jersey, and was ultimately bought out of his contract.
The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Thursday night. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Dallas at St. Louis (8:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Blues lead the series 2-1.
San Jose at Nashville (9:00 p.m. ET)
The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on CNBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Sharks lead the series 2-1.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:
—Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty
—Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires
—Preds smash Sharks in Game 3 to get back in series
—Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1