Ken Hitchcock helps others nab a shoplifter, makes headlines in process

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Thumbnail image for kenhitchcock1.jpgThese 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.

Blue Jackets have plans for Ken Hitchcock to work within the organization

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kenhitchcock1.jpgWhen 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.

R&D camp coaches Ken Hitchcock, Dave King share viewpoints on possible rule changes

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kenhitchcockmakesapoint.jpgIt seems like the NHL research and development camp has a lot going for it. Brendan Shanahan is receiving his first real on-the-job test as an NHL executive. Potential 2011 NHL Entry Draft prospects and referees alike are being used as guinea pigs for rules changes. But let’s not forget that the camp’s two “teams” are being coached by two knowledgeable hockey people in Dave King and Ken Hitchcock. (The latter of which I believe should have a head coaching job in the NHL right now, in particular.)

NHL.com caught up with them to find out about their three “favorite” rule changes. Let me spotlight one each (although I will discuss one of King’s other observations in a later post).

First, here is the Hitchcock choice I found most interesting.

Finally, Hitchcock went off the radar a bit and said he liked the wider blue line, which was extended to 24 inches from 12 inches and tested in Wednesday’s second session.

“I know I’m probably in the minority, the big blue line really created offensive opportunities for your power play,” he said. “We have had to use the width of the ice on the power play to be more effective but this would finally allow us to use the depth of the ice on a power play. If you have a smart team and two smart point men, like if you looked at (Brian) Rafalski and (Nicklas) Lidstrom, and they had that extra mileage to work in they would be really dangerous.”

I must admit I’m with Hitchcock on that one. An extended blue line wouldn’t create any extra confusion or arbitrary changes but instead give a skilled defenseman just a tiny bit more leeway to make plays. If you’ve ever witnessed just how impressive a great point man can be when it comes to keeping the puck in the zone, an extra foot could make a real difference.

Now, here is a delayed penalty innovation that appealed to Dave King.

King started by saying he’s a fan of the delayed penalty modification which would require the team that has committed the infraction to not only gain possession of the puck to force a whistle, but to clear it out of its own zone.

“I think it will create more opportunities for power plays,” King said. “You’ll be able to get your goalie out and actually get a 6-on-5 going in the zone so I think it’s going to help a bit to create some offense.”

That’s not a bad idea, either. The league already improved that rule by forcing a team to truly prove they have control over their puck instead of simply touching it to get a penalty called, but needing to clear your zone would make the difference even bigger. The question is whether or not that would place too much of a burden on the offending team. My gut instinct is to say it wouldn’t be an unfair change, but that’s something for the league to test.

Here’s video of the two coaches as they were “mic’d up” during the camp.

Hitchcock, Blues know they need to slow down the Stars … but can they?

The puck shot by Dallas Stars left wing Antoine Roussel crosses the goal line as St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (19) attempt the stop during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Friday, April 29, 2016, in Dallas. The Stars won 2-1. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The Dallas Stars only beat the St. Louis Blues by one goal (2-1) in Game 1, but the feeling is that the score was deceptively close.

Blame it on fatigue from that epic series against the Chicago Blackhawks or not; the Blues looked out of rhythm and out of breath against the hard-charging Stars.

At least they’re not in denial about that, though.

“We’re not going to beat anybody giving up 40 shots on goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after their Game 1 loss on Friday. “We’re not going to beat anybody giving up the scoring chances we did today.”

Hitchcock added “we’ve got to find the energy to play our game, and we’ve got to find it quickly in the next 48 hours.”

Allowing 40 shots on goal might not be that common for the Blues, yet they leaned heavily on Brian Elliott against the Blackhawks in that series.

Just look at the SOG comparison in that series and in Game 1 vs. Dallas:

Game 1: Blues – 18 SOG, Blackhawks – 35
Game 2: Blues – 31, Blackhawks – 29
Game 3: Blues – 36, Blackhawks – 46
Game 4: Blues – 20, Blackhawks – 42
Game 5: Blues – 46, Blackhawks – 35
Game 6: Blues – 28, Blachawks – 36
Game 7: Blues – 26, Blackhawks – 33

Game 1: Blues – 32, Stars – 42

Such shot comparisons make you wonder if Game 1 provided evidence of a rest advantage or if this might just be the state of affairs for the Blues (at least against two electric offenses).

One area to watch is the transition game. The Stars seemed to tear through the neutral zone while the Blues sometimes struggled to get things going.

“They’re a team that wants to play real fast up the ice and through the neutral zone,” Jay Bouwmeester said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of slowing them down. A lot of their chances were off the rush. That’s what you want to take away from them.”

File that under “easier said than done.”

Hitchcock’s response to all the haters? ‘Take a day off’

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There’s no doubt that the Blues’ run of great regular seasons followed by poor playoff performances left some people skeptical about their ability to win the big game.

Some, like yours truly, were still skeptical when they jumped out to 2-0 lead in Game 7 (I wasn’t totally wrong, was I?). But in the end, St. Louis finally got over the hump.

If you had your doubts about the St. Louis Blues’ ability to win big hockey games, Ken Hitchcock has a message for you:

The players and the staff deserve a lot of credit for what went down last night. The Blues could have closed up shop a number of times in this series. There was that time they dropped a double overtime game in Game 5, the time they blew a two-goal lead in Game 6 and the time they blew a 2-0 lead in Game 7.

It also helped that they got this fortunate bounce:

Both teams always have a lot to lose in a Game 7, but in this case, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Blues had way more at stake than the ‘Hawks did.

Think about it, what if St. Louis had lost Game 7?

They probably would’ve axed their entire coaching staff and made significant on-ice changes over the course of the summer. Names like David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott and Kevin Shattenkirk might have all been looking for new homes (they still could be moved).

Many will focus on how the Blackhawks are going home early, but the Blues deserve the credit. They got the job done with their backs against the wall and many of their jobs on the line.

A quick second-round exit could still lead to a ton of changes in the Blues’ organization, but now that they’ve tasted success, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

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