Report: Blues will stick with Hitchcock ‘barring anything dramatic’

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The St. Louis Blues suffered another crushing playoff letdown in 2014-15, fueling speculation that they might make a big change behind the bench. It sounds like they’ll stick with head coach Ken Hitchcock, after all, however.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, who said that Hitchcock will remain Blues head coach “barring anything dramatic” during the final moments of this Saturday Headlines segment.

It’s unclear what sort of things would qualify as “dramatic,” although recent stories indicate that both sides were going through some soul searching (rather than the Blues merely pondering a change). Hitchcock mentioned that he needed time to reflect while the team spoke of a decision-making process still taking place heading into this weekend.

It’s pretty easy to lay out the pros and cons of Hitchcock’s tenure with the Blues.

source: AP
Source: AP

 

The regular season results have been brilliant. From 2005-06 to 2010-11, St. Louis only made it to the playoffs once (and was summarily swept in 2009). Hitchcock took over during the 2011-12 season, and St. Louis has made the postseason every year he’s been at the helm. In fact, the Blues have won two Central Division titles – no small task – and have finished second or better in his four seasons.

Of course, the success dries up after the final game of each regular season. They’ve only won one playoff series with Hitchcock in charge, even as expectations climbed quite a bit in the past couple seasons.

It would be foolish to pin the blame on Hitchcock alone, yet at 63, it’s understandable if the veteran coach would elect to move on (or for his team to seek a new voice).

On the other hand, it also makes a lot of sense for this to be a last chance season, even if this offseason brings about some big changes.

While there are some big concerns this summer (star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is an RFA and veteran blueliner Barret Jackman is a UFA, among others), some of the Blues’ bargains are on the verge of getting raises.

Jake Allen needs a new contract, while Brian Elliott’s $2.5 million bargain evaporates after 2016-17. Kevin Shattenkirk’s super-cheap at $4.25M, yet that goes away after 2016-17, too. David Backes only has one year left at $4.5M while Jaden Schwartz should expect a big bump from $2.35M after 2015-16.

Long story short, it makes sense for the Blues to take a measured approach with Hitchcock … but they’ll expect dramatic results if he returns in 2015-16.

Brodeur signs three-year deal to be Blues’ assistant GM

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The St. Louis Blues are at a crossroads as an organization, but one thing seems to be clear: Martin Brodeur is rising up their executive ranks. The team signed him to a three-year contract to be their assistant general manager on Wednesday.

After playing a few regular season games with the Blues in 2014-15, Brodeur moved into a role as a “special adviser” during that same campaign. The 43-year-old told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that such a job merely made him want more.

“I really enjoyed it, but we had a conversation that I’d like to do more,” Brodeur said. “I want to learn as much as possible. I think it was a great opportunity for me to be around the team advising. But now after doing that for six months, I’d like to do a little more.”

It looks like his wish has been granted, and one assumes he’ll have at least some say in a key offseason for the franchise. Will they stick with head coach Ken Hitchcock? Should the Blues trade any core members to shake things up? Brodeur won’t be the one to make final decisions, yet he could whisper in GM Doug Armstrong’s ear on plenty of matters.

Video: Wild chase Allen following two soft goals

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Jake Allen didn’t have the kind of start one would expect with his team on the brink of elimination.

Allen gave up a shorthanded marker to Zach Parise at 7:14 of the first period from a horrible angle.

“The young guy is learning, we got to stick with him,” Ken Hitchcock told Brian Engblom during a stoppage in play.

It didn’t take long for Hitchcock to change his mind.

At 11:19 of the second, Justin Fontaine beat Allen five-hole on a shot he should’ve had.

Hitchcock had seen in enough replacing Allen with Brian Elliott.

Elliott has not played in the series with his last appearance coming on April 11.

Allen allowed two goals on 13 shots.

Elliott’s last playoff action came during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 when the Blues lost in six games of the first round to the L.A. Kings.

Hitchcock clears the air regarding the Blues’ goaltending situation

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The St. Louis Blues did an excellent job of battling back from a 5-2 third period deficit to earn a single point in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

However, there was some confusion over the Blues’ goaltending situation.

After allowing four goals on 21 shots, Jake Allen was pulled in favor of Brian Elliott. Elliott backstopped the Blues to a 2-1 win on Saturday and was supposed to have the night off.

Elliott allowed one goal on six shots before leaving the game early in the third period.

Allen returned and finished the game.

Elliott appeared agitated when leaving leading some to speculate the goaltender had pulled himself from the game.

Post-game Ken Hitchcock cleared the air.

The Blues’ coach said he pulled Elliott from the game.

“I was thinking, ‘All I’ve gotta do is get him hurt,'” said Hitchcock per Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Hitchcock was then asked if Elliott pulled himself.

“No, that was me,” Hitchcock said. “He was mad he was coming out. I just told him to relax.”

Allen didn’t seem thrilled about going back into the game.

With the point in the loss the Blues move four points back of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.

Report: Blues’ Elliott medically cleared to play

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Goaltender Brian Elliott has been medically cleared to play and could be in the Blues lineup as early as Tuesday when St. Louis visits Nashville.

According to NHL.com’s Lou Korac, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said when Elliott returns to game action is upto the player and the team’s goalie coach.

“We’re going to start Marty (Brodeur) tomorrow, but our hope is that (Elliott’s) ready the next couple days,” said Hitchcock. “We’re hopeful that after Jimmy (Corsi) works with him today that he feels good and he’s up and running and ready to go.

“It’s up to (Elliott) and Jimmy. I think the doctors have cleared him. It’s how he feels and how he feels like he’s game ready. We’ll see. Hopefully we get good news after Jimmy comes off the ice with him, see how he feels.”

Elliott has been sidelined with a knee injury since Nov. 25.

“I was able to get a whole net for a whole practice,” Elliott said. “Just tested it even more. It gives you a workout really. It’s tough to get an actual workout without getting out there with the guys and kind of battling through drills. You get tired and you’ve got to press on. It’s more of a mental challenge as well.

“(I felt) good. Just trying to get up to the game speed. Just following pucks. It’s one thing when you’re off for a little bit, even like a three-day break like Christmas, some of the hardest things is just following the puck with your eyes so you’re tracking pucks well. It’s what I’ve been trying to do since I’ve been back on the ice. Today was another step forward.”

Elliott is 8-4-1 this season to go along with a 1.82 G.A.A. and a .931 save percentage.