Just hours after being acquired by Dallas, Ben Bishop said he was excited to join a team that reminded him of his old Tampa Bay squad.
But there was another reason for his excitement — the opportunity to reunite with Ken Hitchcock.
Bishop lives in St. Louis in the offseason and often worked out with the Blues before training camp started. He said he knows Hitchcock pretty well and likes how he coaches.
“I think we have a good relationship, and I know his teams in St. Louis were tough to play against,” Bishop said.
Bishop was a Blues farmhand when Hitchcock took over from Davis Payne in 2011. He never actually played a game under Hitch, but was recalled in a backup capacity shortly before getting traded to Ottawa.
To hear talk of a good goalie relationship in St. Louis is surprising. Because during Hitch’s six years on the job, there was mostly drama.
Jaroslav Halak, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen were all tasked with the starting gig at some point during his tenure, and here are just a few of the PHT headlines that came from it:
St. Louis Drama: Hitchcock and Halak ended season feuding
Hitch addresses goalie situation after odd incident
Hitchcock on Elliott: ‘He has to play better’
Hitchcock says Allen needs to ‘man up and get better’
Some suggested the biggest problem was St. Louis’ lack of a clear-cut No. 1 goalie, which GM Doug Armstrong (seemingly) remedied by trading Elliott to Calgary, then anointing Allen as “the guy” with a four-year, $17.4 million deal.
Yet even with Allen locked in, the goalie problems continued. They ended when Hitchcock was fired in February.
Not long after the dismissal, Allen had some pretty interesting remarks about his relationship with his former head coach.
“I didn’t have a lot of communication with Hitch,” he told CBC. “I think you need to communicate. I like to know if [the coach] has a problem [with my play]. If you [want to] change something, come talk to me.
“It’s the easiest solution.”
So, back to Dallas.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism, but also plenty that still needs to get sorted. GM Jim Nill has to sign Bishop, and decide which of his two incumbents — Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi — will be cut loose.
One thing is for certain, though: Bishop is excited to work with Hitchcock, and vice versa.
“He really makes it hard for a shooter to see any openings,” Hitch said. “I think you really have to work to score on him.”