The St. Louis Blues weren’t in favor of using hybrid icing this season and, after utilizing it for three games, don’t sound like they’ve changed their minds.
Ken Hitchcock — head coach of a Blues team that voted 20-3 against hybrid icing — isn’t a fan of the rule, saying it hurts teams with speedy skaters up front.
“I think teams with fast forwards are at a disadvantage for icing now,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You think about this … you’ve got quick forwards half a step behind a defenseman, you got to the puck every time.
“Now all it is, it’s a little race to the hash marks. But it’s another 25 feet that you could win the race to … that you don’t win any more.”
Hitchcock and the Blues aren’t alone in their distaste for hybrid icing. The Devils voted unanimously against it (and were surprised it passed), Kings head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t like it (and also doesn’t like the manner in which it was implemented) while Caps forward Jason Chimera bluntly said he hated it.
Hitchcock also sees problems with how teams may adjust their styles of play.
“I think you’re going to see teams play a weakside defenseman further back now,” he explained. “You’re going to see teams really crunch the red line and you’re going to see a team play a defenseman further back because all he has to do is win a 20-foot race.”
According to St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, his team has a slight “problem” when it plays the Chicago Blackhawks.
This “problem” is easy enough to understand, even for the most casual of hockey fans; however, it’s a bit more difficult to solve.
“They just don’t give us the puck,” Hitchcock said today, per the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc. “It’s an issue.”
Indeed, the Blackhawks are one of the best puck-possession teams in the NHL — a big reason they won the Stanley Cup a few months ago. (And also a big reason they rank in the bottom half of the league in things like blocked shots and hits, since those are things that teams without the puck do.)
For Hitchcock and the Blues, it’s a challenge that awaits tonight in St. Louis when the ‘Hawks come for a visit.
Granted, St. Louis has its own strengths. The Blues are big, they’re strong, and if they can catch you, they can hurt you.
Whoever ends up winning tonight is likely to be the team that’s able to dictate its preferred style the best.
“I don’t think they can play the way we play and I know we can’t play the way they play,” said Hitchcock, per Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times.
Remember the rumors of there being issues between Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak and coach Ken Hitchcock at the end of last season? There was even talk that it could lead to the goalie being moved this summer.
Turns out all was well with Halak and he’s healthy and ready to get started on a new season as Hitchcock tells Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“He’s a really young guy and you don’t want to have an injury-plagued career. So he wanted take the question marks out of it by having a really high fitness level. He’s done a really good job of finding that fitness level.”
Part of the talk of that discord last season centered around him not getting into games late in the season. As it turned out, he just wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
Even more encouraging for Halak was the talk from Hitchcock how he didn’t lose his starting job because of his play but because of his health. Since there will be three-way competition to play in St. Louis between him, Brian Elliott, and Jake Allen, things are looking up for Halak.
St. Louis dealing David Perron to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi left a few people wondering just what the Blues see in the 2009 first-round pick.
Coach Ken Hitchcock, who had his ups and downs with Perron, says he’s done enough homework on Paajarvi to know what kind of player he’s getting. Norm Sanders of the News-Democrat shares the story.
“I have a lot of people personally that knew Paajarvi, both in Sweden and in Edmonton,” Hitchcock said. “I watched all of his games against teams similar to us. I knew how well he played in the last 20 games. … I watched that very closely.
“But I wanted to see how he played against San Jose, LA and ourselves. Those were the games I focused on.”
Over those last 20 games, Paajarvi had four goals and five assists while averaging around 15 minutes per game. Compare that with Perron who had one goal and four assists in his final 20 games with St. Louis and you can see why (via small sample size) the Blues may have made the move.
Related: Evolution and analysis: GMs explain Perron-Paajarvi trade
You may have noticed that Jaroslav Halak wasn’t much of a factor late in the season or the playoffs for the St. Louis Blues. He dealt with a groin injury and was supplanted by Brian Elliott as the starter in the playoffs.
If you thought any of that sat well with Halak, you’d be very wrong.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shares a story how he and coach Ken Hitchcock had a heated argument outside the Blues locker room before Game 4 against Los Angeles. Halak was reportedly late for a team meeting and the confrontation was escalated by Halak as he got his frustrations about sitting off his chest.
What was Halak burned up about? Rutherford highlights include:
Rutherford adds Blues personnel may not have been pleased with Halak’s response to not playing including giving less-than full effort in practices and not preparing to play in Game 2 against L.A. when Elliott was shaken up. While he stayed in the game, it’s customary to at least stretch and prep just in case. Halak didn’t do that.
An early playoff exit with added goalie drama ensures the summer will be interesting in St. Louis. For what it’s worth, Halak has one more year left on his contract with a $3.75 million cap hit.