Under pressure: Ken Hitchcock


This is part of St. Louis Blues day at PHT…

The St. Louis Blues have one of the more interesting coaching situations in the NHL this season.

We already know that it is going to be Ken Hitchcock’s last year behind the bench because he has said he plans on stepping away from coaching at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. So he isn’t going to be coaching the team in 2017 no matter what the team does this year, so it doesn’t seem like it would be much of a pressure situation.

But it probably still is. At least a little bit.

What makes this a bit of a pressure situation for him is the way the Blues have gone about lining up his successor, former Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo. He is already a member of the coaching staff as an assistant, and we know he is going to be the next head coach of the Blues. It is just a matter of whether it happens after the 2016-17 season as originally planned, or sometime before then.

And that is where the pressure might be on Hitchcock a little bit this season.

Even though the Blues have been one of the best teams in the NHL over the past four years under Hitchcock, winning at least 49 games in each of the past three seasons, Hitchcock always seems to be sitting on the hot seat because of the team’s shortcomings and early exits when the playoffs start. Before last season, where the Blues advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals, the team had been knocked out in the first round in three consecutive seasons, and it seemed likely that if they did not win that Game 7 in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 that they might have just cleaned house and gutted the whole thing over the summer after another early exit.

Because they got through it and then won another Game 7 against the Dallas Stars in the second round, it definitely bought everybody another year. At least to start.

When you put everything together this situation just seems like an obvious candidate for an in-season coaching change if the Blues do not have a fast start out of the gate, or are not where management wants them to be around the mid-point of the season. Hitchcock has already seemingly been on the hot seat within the past year or two, everybody knows he is not coming back after this season, and the Blues don’t have to do anything to find a replacement if they need one in the middle of the season. Because the replacement is already going to be working — literally — behind the team’s bench this season.