In the aftermath of their disappointing first-round playoff exit, the Blues were expected to make some moves — and they have, though mostly in the goaltending department.
The shakeup started two weeks ago, when GM Doug Armstrong announced the club would be parting ways with goalie coach Corey Hirsch, who’d served in that capacity since 2010. That was followed by yesterday’s announcement of a three-year extension for Brian Elliott, a deal that signified the end of Ryan Miller’s tenure in St. Louis and the beginning of Jake Allen’s ascension to full-time NHL netminder, possibly as the Blues’ No. 1.
Following the Elliott extension, Armstrong said philosophical shift in how the club approaches goaltending wasn’t yet complete, as the new goalie coach would be exactly that — a coach.
“Ken [Hitchcock] wants to make sure we’re getting a goalie coach, not just a goalie instructor,” Armstrong said, per 1120 KMOX radio. “The difference is sometimes you have to say the uncomfortable things as a coach to push and prod players to be their best.
“So what we’re looking for is someone that’s got very strong technical skills, but someone to also push our goalies to be the best they can be.”
It’s important to remember Hitchcock inherited Hirsch, Elliott and Halak upon taking the St. Louis gig three years ago; outside of the Miller acquisition, he’s never really been able to stamp his authority on the goaltending position (and reportedly had beef with Halak at the end of last season.)
It’s a bit simplistic to point at goaltending as the reason for St. Louis’ postseason failures but, at least in the immediate aftermath of the defeat to Chicago, it’s the one area the Blues decided needed fixing.
As for who the Blues might hire to replace Hirsch? Well, in the KMOX interview, Armstrong said one of the reasons he brought Kirk Muller aboard is an assistant coach is that he liked the idea of having an ex-player on staff; in light of that, it’s worth noting former Blues ‘tender Ty Conklin has been the organization’s goalie development coach since 2013, and had his name floated as a potential replacement by the Post-Dispatch two weeks ago.