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?
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.
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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Ken Hitchcock sounds like he’d rather go skydiving with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck than face the Blackhawks with Patrick Kane playing center. However, that’s exactly what Hitch will experience tonight in St. Louis. (Kane at center, not skydiving with a snake.)
“It’s the worst nightmare for all of us; it’s not good,” the new Blues head coach said today, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. “A player who’s that’s strong and that competitive and that patient with the puck, we’ve all kind of dreaded that day when he was going to move into the middle of the ice. It’s not fun.”
Kane (15 points in 14 games) has been playing the middle with Marian Hossa on one wing and either Patrick Sharp or Dan Carcillo on the other.
While Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has no reason to be unhappy with the Kane-Hossa combo, he’s shaking almost everything else up after Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Canucks. Tonight’s game in St. Louis will feature new forward trios and defense pairings, the most notable change being Michael Frolik moving up to the top line to play with Jonathan Toews and Sharp.
The Blackhawks also hope to improve their surprisingly bad power play, currently ranked 28th with a 9.4-percent success rate. For starters, Quenneville wants to see more traffic in front of the net with the man advantage, just like the good old days when the ‘Hawks still had Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer.
“A couple guys that made our power play successful are guys who just stood in front of the net and everything else evolves around that,” Quenneville said, as reported by the Daily Herald. “Otherwise you’re looking for the perfect play, and perfect plays just aren’t going to exist. If you have traffic and our thought process is pucks, off of that a lot of things can happen.”
The situation surrounding Ken Hitchcock finally leaving the Columbus organization has been seen as a happy one for both Hitchcock for landing a new job in the NHL and for the Blue Jackets because they can stop being tempted to bring him back after firing him years ago. For Blue Jackets president Mike Priest, he’s putting on the good face and congratulating Hitchcock for the job.
That’s all he’s saying about it though, oddly enough. While the Blue Jackets gave permission to the Blues to talk to Hitchcock, Priest had no further comment on the situation aside from a pre-packaged press release as Aaron Portzline of Puck Rakers found out.
There’s two ways to look at it. Either Priest wants to let the situation be done and allow Hitchcock to go quietly to St. Louis (almost certainly the case), or he’s playing the role of jilted executive left unhappy that his best laid plans got smashed to pieces by a team quicker to pull the trigger.
Not going to lie to you, we’re secretly hoping it’s the latter instead of the likely former. The talk that Columbus wasn’t totally sold on bringing Hitchcock back is amusing especially given how Elliotte Friedman reported in his “30 Thoughts” column about how Hitchcock’s consulting role had him on the ice with Scott Arniel hovering around like a grim reaper waiting to take back his old job.
Either way, it’s up to the organization to be more forthright with Arniel. Either fully let him do his thing now or call it a day and find someone else to try and turn around this 2-11-1 team.