The St. Louis Blues suffered another crushing playoff letdown in 2014-15, fueling speculation that they might make a big change behind the bench. It sounds like they’ll stick with head coach Ken Hitchcock, after all, however.
That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, who said that Hitchcock will remain Blues head coach “barring anything dramatic” during the final moments of this Saturday Headlines segment.
It’s unclear what sort of things would qualify as “dramatic,” although recent stories indicate that both sides were going through some soul searching (rather than the Blues merely pondering a change). Hitchcock mentioned that he needed time to reflect while the team spoke of a decision-making process still taking place heading into this weekend.
It’s pretty easy to lay out the pros and cons of Hitchcock’s tenure with the Blues.
The regular season results have been brilliant. From 2005-06 to 2010-11, St. Louis only made it to the playoffs once (and was summarily swept in 2009). Hitchcock took over during the 2011-12 season, and St. Louis has made the postseason every year he’s been at the helm. In fact, the Blues have won two Central Division titles – no small task – and have finished second or better in his four seasons.
Of course, the success dries up after the final game of each regular season. They’ve only won one playoff series with Hitchcock in charge, even as expectations climbed quite a bit in the past couple seasons.
It would be foolish to pin the blame on Hitchcock alone, yet at 63, it’s understandable if the veteran coach would elect to move on (or for his team to seek a new voice).
On the other hand, it also makes a lot of sense for this to be a last chance season, even if this offseason brings about some big changes.
While there are some big concerns this summer (star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is an RFA and veteran blueliner Barret Jackman is a UFA, among others), some of the Blues’ bargains are on the verge of getting raises.
Jake Allen needs a new contract, while Brian Elliott’s $2.5 million bargain evaporates after 2016-17. Kevin Shattenkirk’s super-cheap at $4.25M, yet that goes away after 2016-17, too. David Backes only has one year left at $4.5M while Jaden Schwartz should expect a big bump from $2.35M after 2015-16.
Long story short, it makes sense for the Blues to take a measured approach with Hitchcock … but they’ll expect dramatic results if he returns in 2015-16.