When Ken Hitchcock was canned in the disappointing season after the Columbus Blue Jackets made their first (and only) playoff appearance, many attributed the move to the way he clashed with young players, particularly Nikita Filatov and Nik Zherdev. If those two “mercurial” Russians’ fall from grace wasn’t enough to strengthen Hitch’s side of the story, the way he’s handling a youth-laden roster in the St. Louis Blues adds another degree of clarifying hindsight, as this Associated Press story discusses.
During a 1½-year absence from coaching after getting fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hitchcock prepared mentally and physically for what might be his final shot. While scrutinizing rosters and doing his own job of scouting, Hitchcock embraced a workout routine and improved diet habits.
He gets points for trying to better relate to a younger generation and its reliance on social media.
“He didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring,” [John] Davidson said. “He made himself a better man, a better coach, so when the opportunity came around he’d be ready.”
Perhaps Hitchcock is a better man and coach, but he came into St. Louis with a pretty impressive resume to begin with. Even if it’s difficult to decide if his struggles to “relate” with guys like Filatov and Zherdev were more myth than reality, that concept drove Hitchcock to embrace a (relatively) kinder and gentler side.
In a way that might just ape the way Tom Coughlin softened up ever-so-slightly to keep his job with the New York Giants (and eventually win two Super Bowls), the “new” Hitchcock is paying off in his new gig – especially with guys who are still pretty new to the NHL.