The St. Louis Blues made a startling statement by firing Davis Payne in favor of experienced coach Ken Hitchcock. For most fans, the image of Hitchock is that of a taskmaster who really only brings out the best in teams defensively. So is Hitchcock ready for the ever-changing NHL game after some time on the sidelines? Ed Olczyk and Keith Jones discuss that topic in the video below.
If there’s anyone in St. Louis that could be happy about seeing Ken Hitchcock taking over for the fired Davis Payne, it should be Jaroslav Halak.
Halak’s tenure in St. Louis since arriving in a trade with Montreal before last season has been a roller coaster of emotion. Last season saw Halak play hot and cold like a little kid playing with the sink faucets. Going from stellar opponent-frustrating games that saw him stop everything under the sun to ones where he couldn’t stop a beach ball was how things went.
So far this season, the beach ball has been winning more often than not as Halak’s numbers have ballooned and Brian Elliott has become the de facto starter for the Blues. If the Blues are going to be a playoff team in the West, they cannot have things going like that.
With Hitchcock in place now, the Blues are going to become a tougher defensive team come hell or high water (or trades). That kind of change in action should favor Halak who thrived behind a defensive system in Montreal.
While the initial go of things could be tough while the team figures out his system and learns a new meaning of pain under Hitchcock, the end result should see Halak’s numbers come back down and allow Halak to find a comfort zone in goal. ESPN’s Craig Custance tweeted last night that any players not buying into Hitchcock’s way of doing things will find themselves shipped out of town and the last guy we’ll see on that list should be Halak.
While St. Louis fans might not have those Halak “STOP” signs ready right now, they might want to shine them up for future games.
We’re pretty sure that Minnesota Wild fans weren’t exactly overjoyed while Jacques Lemaire was at the helm with his defensively controlled style of game. While Todd Richards wasn’t quite able to bring the excitement back to Minnesota, it appears that the Wild could be looking to a name synonymous with stifling defense to lead them back to the playoffs.
Former Stars, Flyers, and Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock is on the Wild’s short list of candidates to take over their top job. Hitchcock has a history as a defensive task master and a guy that demands positioning and dedication out his team to shut down opponents from scoring at all times.
While Hitchcock is still on the payroll of the Blue Jackets, the Wild have received permission to talk with with him about their opening. The Wild have also gotten permission to talk with former Penguins coach Michel Therrien and former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. As for Hitchcock, he’s a guy that comes highly regarded by many as Michael Russo or The Star Tribune finds out.
“Hitch is definitely one of the smartest coaches I’ve ever played for,” former NHL star Jeremy Roenick, who played for Hitchcock in Philadelphia, told the Star Tribune last month. “He has a great knack to understand players, he has a great system.”
Hitchcock is known as a big believer in playing fast defensively so his teams can get out of the defensive zone quickly and get on the attack. Hitchcock’s longtime assistant in Dallas is Wild assistant coach Rick Wilson, whose future is in flux because of the Wild’s coaching vacancy.
That would lend us to believe that Hitchcock is being spoken of well by Wilson. Therrien’s connection with the Wild is also strong as he spent the past season with the team as a scout. MacTavish has spent the past year working for TSN in Canada as an on-air analyst also seeking to get back in the game.
We’re thinking that Wild fans want to see the team winning again without a doubt, but Hitchcock’s style of game doesn’t lend itself well to exciting offensive production. It puts the onus on Wild fans to decide if they want exciting hockey to watch or whether or not they want a potential winning team. Ideally you want to have the mix of both to keep everyone happy, but Hitchcock’s struggles in Columbus, even in spite of helping the franchise to their only playoff appearance, were due to a roster filled with poor talent and one that struggled adjusting to the speed of the “new” NHL.
The Wild and GM Chuck Fletcher have fascinating choices to make ahead here as the fans in Minnesota are frustrated and want to see things turn around fast.
These moments don’t come along every day, but it seems like they follow a similar script:
- A minor crime is committed OR someone is in peril.
- Sports semi-celebrity intervenes.
- People blow that intervention out of proportion.
It happened when Brooks Laich helped a stranded motorist, when broadcaster Ron MacLean had a Good Samaritan moment and even took place when often-reviled sports agent Drew Rosenhaus saved a drowning boy. While these situations often seem a bit surreal, they’re also vaguely heart warming, especially in the case of people in high-pressure, very much public positions.
Former Ken Hitchcock was just trying to help out the other day when he helped to pin down a shoplifter, but it’d becoming the talk of the the town in Kelowna, British Columbia. Puck Daddy has more on the odd story, originally told in the Daily Courier.
As an NHL coach, Ken Hitchcock’s teams were known for their smothering defense.How fitting, then, that the former Columbus Blue Jackets coach is being lauded in Kelowna, British Columbia for grabbing and holding a shoplifter until public safety officials arrived on Wednesday morning.
According to the Kelowna Daily Courier, a 14-year-old boy shoplifted three pairs of shorts from Cruzwear Unlimited on Bernard Avenue, the “largest swimwear store in Western Canada.” Cruzwear employee Sherrie Lessare grabbed the boy’s backpack as he attempted to flee the store, and called for help.
Hitchcock, who vacations in Kelowna, was sitting in a parked car and sprung to action when he saw the struggle. Hitchcock and a motorcyclist pinned the shoplifter against a window.
Well, that certainly is odd but mostly positive, even if Hitchcock’s involvement was a little exaggerated. Hopefully next time the rotund Cup winning coach is in the headlines, he’ll be named the head coach of another NHL team. That kind of attention would be much more justifiable.
When teams fire a head coach, we often forget that those teams are on the hook to pay that coach what he’s owed until he finds another job. In the case of the Columbus Blue Jackets, when they fired Ken Hitchcock back in February, they were getting rid of the coach that brought them to their one and only playoff appearance and sometimes parting ways can be difficult. With the game evolving in the ways that it has, teams in need of a head coach are a bit apprehensive to bring in a stout defensive-minded guy like Hitchcock.
So with these two sides having parted ways but with Hitchcock still collecting a hearty paycheck from the Blue Jackets, team president Mike Priest and general manager Scott Howson figures he can at least put Hitchcock to work somehow to make him earn that money that he was going to get from the team in the first place. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline finds out what’s going on.
“As long as he’s under contract with us, we’ll find something for him to do that brings value to our organization,” Priest said.
But nobody’s quite sure what that will entail, though there are at least a handful of possibilities.
“I’ll wait for Mike or Scott to come tell me,” Hitchcock said. “I have my own plans of what I would like to do, but I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes or be in the way.”
Perhaps it’s just me here, but I can’t help but think that situations like this are just uncomfortable all around. In the NHL, however, they’re not at all uncommon. For instance, current Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson has been hired and fired a couple of times by the Devils yet remained in the organization in some aspect. Just call this one of the things that makes the sports world different than the real world as I doubt if any of us were fired from our jobs we would be told it was OK to hang around the building for days/weeks/years afterward.