Toronto Maple Leafs v St. Louis Blues

PHT Morning Skate: Ken Hitchcock is a teacher, not a screamer

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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.

Ken Hitchcock wants to be a teacher this time around, not a screamer. We’re sure the Blues are very thankful for that. (Post-Dispatch)

Eric Staal is more than ready to just move along with his season now. (Toronto Sun)

Sharks coach Todd McClellan says the Canucks got all the chances San Jose didn’t in Vancouver’s overtime win. (Working the Corners)

Mike Babcock says that Jimmy Howard is one poised dude in net compared to past seasons. (Detroit Free Press)

Speaking of poise, Toronto’s young defensemen could use a bit more of that. (TSN)

The Capitals were happy to get physical in their big win over the Rangers. (Capitals Insider)

Joel Quenneville wasn’t too happy with the officiating in their loss to the Kings. (CSNChicago.com)

Meanwhile, Brandon Pirri is hoping to stick around with the Blackhawks. (Chicago Tribune)

Nathan Gerbe is staying upbeat during his injury recovery. (Buffalo News)

John Tortorella said his defense was “brain dead” during their loss to the Caps. Ouch. (Ranger Rants)

Ales Hemsky’s future in Edmonton is very much clouded thanks to trade rumors. (Edmonton Journal)

Ken Hitchcock discovers the effectiveness of text messages

Ken Hitchcock
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In a piece entitled “Time has done wonders for Ken Hitchcock“, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun explains how St. Louis’ 60-year-old head coach has adapted his style to fit with today’s modern player.

Apparently Hitch attended symposiums the past two summers on dealing with younger athletes, how to approach them and — perhaps most importantly — how useless it is to leave them voice mail.

“If you want a player to call you back on the telephone and you actually want to talk to him, then you have to text him,” said Hitchcock. “If you call him and leave a message, there’s a good chance you won’t get a phone call back for a little while. But if you text him and tell him you want to talk to him, you’ll get a call right away. It’s just the way it works with this age group. Those are little things you have to learn.”

I love that Hitch called it a “telephone.” It conjures up images of him on a rotary, dialing the operator, asking how he can leave an important textual correspondence for TJ Oshie.

Turns out texting isn’t the only technological innovation Hitch found intriguing.

“Two hours before the game last night, I’ve got a player watching all of his shifts on his own iPad from the game before,” Hitchcock said. “[Players] know everything about what’s going on. They want input, and you have to give it to them if you want your team to respect you and play hard for you.”

I guess relating to today’s players is tough on older coaches. Generational gaps have always existed, but the technological advancements over the last 10-20 years are huge. I remember the height of bus ride entertainment being a book of CDs and a Discman, and I’m only 32 years old. No wonder Ron Wilson (who, at 56, is one of the league’s older coaches) joined Twitter — it was his chance to connect with the kids and their newfangled gizmos.

Speaking of Twitter, it doesn’t sound like there’s any chance of Hitch joining the fray.

“I’m not going to Twitter, no,” he told LeBrun.

Ken Hitchcock thinks Barry Trotz is a villain

Barry Trotz
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Ken Hitchcock and Barry Trotz are rivals and they’re both solid coaches. That doesn’t mean that Hitchcock has to pump his tires all the time.

As their two teams set to square off tonight in Nashville, Hitchcock took some time out to paint Trotz as the enemy of the state, a tried and true master of evil, making us think back to when he called Trotz “Darth Vader.”

Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean gives us more of the tongue-in-cheek analysis from Hitchcock:

“He’s a villain, he’s a villain. He’s a villainous character. He’s got no sympathy for me. I told him last year, I said, ‘Trotzy I don’t think I’m going to get a job, so we’re going to stay in British Columbia for September and October.’ He says, ‘well that’s good, if you’re going to be there in September, the leaves need cleaning off my driveway on the summer place in Vernon.’ He says, ‘If you’re going to be there in October, can you work the eavestroughs and the gutters.’ So he’s got no sympathy.

Picture that if you can: Ken Hitchcock the house maid. Hope you already lunch to go with that mental picture.

Barry Trotz not being a guy to give someone else the upper hand, zinged Hitchcock right back:

“If I’m Darth Vader, he has to be Lex Luther [sic] right now.”

Darth Vader, Lex Luthor… All right, then who’s The Joker?

On Ken Hitchcock’s evolving hockey philosophy

Ken Hitchcock
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Interesting read courtesy NHL.com on Ken Hitchcock’s hockey philosophy. The new St. Louis coach shared a bit of what he wants to see out of his team as he takes over from Davis Payne.

Two key words for the Blues are “tempo” and “transition.”

The tempo part is self-explanatory — Hitchcock wants things done quickly at both ends of the ice. It’s not the style he coached in Dallas, where he’s said the Stars “played like an old dog. We just sat back and let you make mistakes and then we buried you.”

The NHL has changed over the years.

“To me, transition … the whole game has to be played behind people,” he said. “It’s not so much chipping it in, it’s just making people turn. That’s the whole focus of the game. If everybody’s on that page, then you play faster. You don’t slow down to make a play.”

Puck possession is another important element of Hitchcock’s philosophy. Think Detroit, Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver. Those teams will almost always choose to carry the puck into the attacking zone versus dumping it in and chasing.

Of course, not every team can play that way. It takes puck movers on defense, intelligent and talented forwards, and speed all around.

Fortunately for Hitchcock, the Blues have the pieces in place to make his philosophy work. The question now is whether they’ll buy in.

Ken Hitchcock era begins on the right foot

Ken Hitchcock

The Ken Hitchcock era started off on the right foot as the Blues beat the rival Blackhawks 3-0 in St. Louis. For a night, Hitchcock had a remedy for everything that has ailed the Blues throughout the first month of this season. If Blues GM Doug Armstrong wanted to give his team a shot in the arm, then mission accomplished.

Jaroslav Halak has had difficulties stopping pucks before tonight—he had a shutout. The power play was the worst in the league—it was 50% on Tuesday night. The penalty kill has been near the bottom of the league—it was perfect under Hitchcock. Somewhere Davis Payne is wondering where this kind of effort has been over the last few weeks.

You have to love when a coach comes in and says that he’ll fix the power play in his first practice, and then his team goes out and delivers. He promised a 200-foot game and for a night his team showed that it’s a style that can be success for the Blues this season. Then again, every system will look like an improvement when a struggling team pulls it together and pitches a shutout.

“I felt that we really played to our strength today,” Hitchcock said in a postgame press conference. “I thought that even in some areas where we didn’t do it, our guys really tried to play the game the way we need to play to win. I buy in this quick, it’s a real good start.”

Even though Hitchcock insists that he understands the post-lockout NHL, there have been those who have wondered aloud if the veteran coach knows what it takes to win in the current NHL. We won’t know the answer to that for a few months, but the initial returns in St. Louis look pretty good.

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