Source: Nick Laham/Getty Images North America

Hitchcock confident Redden can still contibute at NHL level


Wade Redden might be 35 years old, and he might’ve been buried the last two seasons in the AHL, but his new head coach in St. Louis is convinced the former NHL all-star defenseman still has something left in the tank.

“I know he does,” Ken Hitchcock said, per the Belleville News-Democrat. “I watched him skate, so I know what he’s got left.”

Redden signed a one-year deal with the Blues last week after being bought out of his six-year, $39 million contract by the Rangers.

He didn’t play in the Blues’ opener Saturday, and he won’t play Monday in Nashville. But when he does finally make his return to the NHL, he’s confident it’ll be a successful one.

“I feel I’ve got something to give for sure,” Redden said. “I’m looking forward to showing that and getting my feet under me again. It’s been a little while since I’ve been in this league, but looking at some of the guys on the back end and some of the players they have here, it’s going to be good for me to come in and support that, be part of that.”

PHT Morning Skate: Where Hitchcock works to keep Blues relevant during lockout

Ken Hitchcock

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is doing what he can to keep his team relevant in a market that has plenty of alternatives outside of the NHL for sports fans. (Edmonton Sun)

Bruins coach Claude Julien likes Dougie Hamilton’s chances of making Boston’s roster once the lockout is over. He was also impressed by goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban. (CSNNE)

Devils goaltending prospect Scott Wedgewood will be starting his pro career in the ECHL. (New Jersey Online)

Family and friends gathered to pay their respects to former Red Wings announcer Budd Lynch, who passed away at the age of 95. (Detroit Free Press)

Senators prospect Jean-Gabriel Pageau is getting a chance to play on the same line as Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad in the AHL. If it wasn’t for the lockout Zibanejad and Silfverberg might have both made the Senators’ opening game roster. (Ottawa Citizen)

Chris Bourque is looking forward to mentoring some of AHL Providence’s younger players. Once the lockouts over, Bourque might get a chance to play for the Boston Bruins. (CSNNE)

Hitchcock on new-look Wild: “They will be a real tough challenge for everybody”

Ken Hitchcock

Last year’s proposed NHL realignment put the reigning Central Division champs, St. Louis, in a division with the Minnesota Wild.

After the summer Minnesota’s had, Ken Hitchcock is probably okay with that realignment plan being shot down.

The St. Louis Blues head coach recently spoke with the Post-Dispatch about the flurry of movement during summer’s free agent period, including Minnesota’s blockbuster signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Hitchcock feels the two marquee acquisitions will make the Wild a very difficult opponent in 2012-13.

“For me, it was whoever got Suter or Parise, they were the two players that were going to make a dramatic difference,” Hitchcock said. “The rest (of free agency) was going to be replacing Player A with Player B.”

The Blues are somewhat fortunate neither Parise or Suter ended up in the Central Division. Many pundits had them pegged for Detroit — one of the Blues’ fiercest rivals — but with them headed to the Northwest, St. Louis will have a much different task in defending their divisional title.

Three major stars have moved on: the Preds will be without Suter, the Wings without Nicklas Lidstrom and the Blue Jackets without Rick Nash.

Regardless, Hitchcock sees the Wild as a major threat in the West.

“They’ve loaded up,” Hitchcock said. “They will be a real tough challenge for everybody.”

Blues extend Hitchcock through 2013-14

Ken Hitchcock

The NHL’s reigning coach of the year will be with the Blues for at least the next two seasons.

That’s the word out of St. Louis as Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch reports the Blues have signed Ken Hitchcock to a one-year extension — meaning he’s under contract through the 2013-14 season.

The contract also includes a “mutual” option for the 2014-15 campaign.

“This is it for me. This is my last stop,” Hitchcock said. “I want this to be a successful franchise for the next 10-15 years, and I want to be part of it, even if I’m not coaching.”

Hitchcock won the Jack Adams over John Tortorella and Paul MacLean by going 43-15-11 after taking over from Davis Payne in November. It’s not surprising the Blues wanted to lock him up after such a performance, but…

It is interesting to see St. Louis retained Hitch through year three — holding out on the option for four — because if Hitchcock’s last two stops in Philadelphia and Columbus are any indication, his expiry date usually coincides with his fourth year on the job.

The Flyers fired him eight games into his fourth season on the job. The Blue Jackets fired him 58 games into year four.

Hitchcock attributes Stewart’s down year to lack of fitness

Chris Stewart 2

One of the big mysteries out of St. Louis this year was the poor play of Chris Stewart.

The 24-year-old saw his offensive production plummet and ended up a healthy scratch twice in the postseason, a stunning development from a guy that was — as recently as last season — considered one of the league’s best young power forwards.

Now, we’re starting to learn more about Stewart’s struggles.

Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock spoke with Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Stewart’s major issue this year — a lack of fitness.

“He’s got to play with a high level of physicality for seven months, nine months. That’s a long time,” Hitchcock explained. “You can’t do it unless you’re in optimum shape. His season was a roller-coaster. He was up, he was down, he was up, he was down.

“In order to play the type of game he needs to play, it requires an unbelievable level of fitness. It’s not a game of skill. It’s a game of grit and skill. In order to play that game, you’ve got to be in unbelievable shape. Otherwise, you break down.”

One wonders if this is related to Stewart’s playing weight. He’s listed at 232 pounds — the heaviest player on St. Louis roster — and stands 6-foot-2, which is a pretty solid frame.

(I’m not saying this is the case, because some guys play better when they’re heavier. But it’s definitely worth mentioning.)

Regardless, Stewart has made amends for his down year by joining Team Biosteel, a professional sports training and nutrition group that counts Boston’s Tyler Seguin and Montreal’s Carey Price among its clients.

Stewart’s new dedication to fitness has already impressed Hitchcock.

“Stewy’s figured out that he wants to have a long career,” he said. “It’s not like he’s suddenly found a trainer. What he’s found is that he can only get so far himself doing the training.

“Now he’s got somebody pushing him really hard everyday. I’m really proud of him.”