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.

Report: Blues interviewing Yeo to be Hitchcock’s replacement-in-waiting

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo argues a call in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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The Mike Yeo interview tour continued this week, but with a wrinkle — he’s in discussions for a head coaching gig down the road.

Per the Star-Tribune, Yeo is interviewing in St. Louis with the goal of taking over from Ken Hitchcock. Earlier this week, Hitchcock signed a one-year extension to return to the Blues next season, and announced the ’16-17 campaign would be his last.

More:

Associate coach Brad Shaw and assistant coach Kirk Muller stepped down this week reportedly because they wouldn’t accept one-year terms. Muller was originally hired with the thinking that some day he’d replace Hitchcock.

This means the Blues are currently looking for two assistant coaches, one of whom GM Doug Armstrong hopes can be molded into Hitchcock’s successor.

Yeo is believed to be a contender for that so-called “Coach in Waiting” position.

It makes sense the Blues want to get out in front and find Hitchcock’s replacement now, rather than jockey for available candidates next summer.

It also makes sense they have interest in Yeo, who’s been a fairly hot commodity since being dismissed in Minnesota, where he spent 4.5 years, making the playoffs three straight times.

Previous reports claim Yeo’s interviewed for the Ottawa, Anaheim and Calgary gigs.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.