NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 10:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues stops a shot in the third period against the New Jersey Devils on November 10, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.The St. Louis Blues defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-0.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Hitchcock says Allen needs to ‘man-up and get better’

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Saying Blues goalie Jake Allen is going through a rough stretch might be a bit of an understatement.

After being pulled in Tuesday’s loss to the Boston Bruins, Allen admitted that he had to be better if the Blues were going to win consistently.

So on Thursday night, head coach Ken Hitchcock went back to Allen for their clash against the Los Angeles Kings, and well…things didn’t get much better.

For the third time in his last five outings, the 26-year-old was pulled in favor of backup Carter Hutton.

“We’ve been beating the dead horse on we need better goaltending, but it seems like right now we’re at a stage where every mistake goes in our net,” Hitchcock said after the game, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On Tuesday, it was three goals on 11 shots that got him chased from the crease, and last night it was three goals on 15 shots, including this one to Trevor Lewis:

Sure, maybe that goes off Alex Pietrangelo before going in, but Allen is still caught way too deep in his net.

“This is really on the athlete. There’s times in your young career where you just said you’ve had enough and then you’ve got to go turn it around the other way,” Hitchcock said of Allen’s struggles. “He’s in a position where he’s the guy that has to really take charge here. He’s got to man-up and get better and we’ve got to get better in front of him.”

With two games in two nights coming up on Saturday and Sunday, Hitchcock will almost certainly give Allen and Hutton a start each. But what happens if Allen continues to struggle?

If he can’t pull himself out of this funk, St. Louis might have to look for a different solution to their goaltending woes.

Maybe this won’t be Hitchcock’s last season after all

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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Imagine this: Ken Hitchcock coaching against the St. Louis Blues in 2017-18.

Such a scenario seems a bit more plausible following Friday’s report from TSN’s Darren Dreger: apparently Hitchcock isn’t totally certain that he’ll retire from NHL head coaching after 2016-17.

With a Stanley Cup on his resume and years of success in different locales, Hitchcock doesn’t necessarily have that much to “prove.” Instead, it kind of sounds like he dreads the boredom that may result in walking off into the sunset.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find if I don’t have a stake in the game I get bored really quickly,” Hitchcock said. “I need to have a real stake in the game and that’s what I love about coaching … I’ve got a stake in the game and what I do matters every day and is important every day. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling.”

Strange things can happen in lame duck coaching scenarios, yet at the moment, the Blues’ plan appears to be for Mike Yeo to go from assistant to head coach after 2016-17 wraps up.

If Hitchcock still wants to be behind an NHL bench, it’s possible that he might need to take a job somewhere else to do so. (Otherwise, it would be a bum deal for Yeo.)

Hitchcock emphasized to Dreger that he’s still leaning toward this being his last year as a head coach, but he also spoke of a few regrets, including being unable to take the Columbus Blue Jackets from a playoff appearance to legitimate contention.

Hey, if he wanted one more challenge, there are plenty left. There’s an adventure waiting in Las Vegas for someone, for one thing …

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.

Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”