Ken Hitchcock is taking one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.
The club announced today a one-year contract extension for the 64-year-old head coach. Hitchcock then confirmed during a press conference that 2016-17 will be his final year. He plans to retire from coaching once it’s over.
“I just feel like I’ve got this really good year in me,” Hitchcock said. “This season has invigorated me like no season before.”
The Blues, of course, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final this year. The previous four postseasons under Hitchcock, they made it to the second round once, then lost three straight times in the first round.
“This group of players, their dynamic has changed, and it’s really exciting right now,” he said.
There will be at least one change to the coaching staff. GM Doug Armstrong said today that associate coach Brad Shaw will not be back. The rest of the staff has been offered one-year extensions to match Hitchcock’s.
Now that the decision has been made on the head coach, Armstrong can turn his full attention to the roster. Getting Jaden Schwartz, a pending restricted free agent, signed to a long-term deal will be his initial focus.
As for the captain, pending unrestricted free agent David Backes, there’s interest in bringing him back, but the numbers have to make sense. Forwards Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak and Scottie Upshall are also UFAs.
On the back end, Kevin Shattenkirk is probably the biggest wild card. He can become unrestricted next summer, and there has been speculation he could be traded this summer. But as of right now, Armstrong expects him to be back.
Armstrong also said there’s a chance Vladimir Sobotka could return to the Blues next season. Sobotka has spent the last two years in the KHL.
However the roster looks next season, it will be interesting to see what Hitchcock can get out of it. The Blues got over a big hump in 2016, but they only got halfway to winning it all.
One thing’s for sure, though, and that’s this: