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.
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.
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