by Patrick Hoffman on 03/27/12 at 11:46 AM ET
Yesterday evening, I had the honor and privilege of speaking to one of my hockey idols, John Davidson, President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues.
JD was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to talk about his team getting into the playoffs, how the team’s fan base has been, the influece of head coach Ken Hitchcock and much, much more.
St Louis No Longer Singing The Blues
While things certainly did not look too rosy in the beginning of the season for the St. Louis Blues, the hockey club got their act together and is now one of the top teams in the entire National Hockey League.
With over 100 points and currently atop the Western Conference, the Blues have surprised many this season. However, when looking at how the organization has evolved and developed over the season, it really should not come as a surprise to anyone just how successful the Blues have been this year.
It starts at the top with President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and team General Manager Doug Armstrong. When things were not going exactly as planned for the first month of the season, the two executives had to make a tough decision and fire then head coach Davis Payne.
“Davis was a good, good hockey coach,” Davidson explained. “We just felt that at the time, we needed to get some experience for our hockey club.”
Davidson and Armstrong certainly found that experience when they hired Ken Hitchcock to take over for Payne. Hitchcock has not only gotten the team back into the playoffs, but has made them one of the best teams in the entire league and has them playing the kind of hockey that could help them go a long way come the postseason.
“Hitchcock’s resume was very impressive,” Davidson said. “The players themselves had a response when looking at the experience of Hithcock and when they did, they learned from it.”
While some out there may believe that Hitchcock is a taskmaster of sorts that is not the case according to Davidson.
“Hitchcock is certainly the boss but the way he acts is very engaging and helpful to our hockey club,” Davidson admitted. “The players have followed his game plans and have really gotten into them and in turn, it has helped us win a lot of hockey games this year.”
That winning feeling has now gone from the organization back to its fans. That is something that Davidson always wanted to happen to the team’s fan base since joining the organization in the offseason of 2006.
“The fans are great here,” Davidson said. “There is great hockey in the area from youth, to the minors to the pros and it really is one of the best sports cities in the world.”
With that said, the fan base was certainly was not like that when Davidson first arrived to St. Louis six seasons ago.
“When we first got here, there was a lot of interest in the community due to the team’s tradition, success in the past and the great people that have been involved with the organization,” Davidson said. “However, due to the team’s struggles after the lockout, the fan base was down and was struggling to recapture that winning feeling.”
Fast forward to now and the fans are right where Davidson wants them to be and that is cheering for the Blues’ organization having recaptured that feeling of success.
“The fans are very vocal here,” Davidson said. “They have followed us all along, win or lose, and because of that, we have made it a point to do well on home ice, which we have done this season.”
With the team now back in the postseason for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when the team lost to the Vancouver Canucks in four games, Davidson certainly feels good about what the team has accomplished up to this point.
“It feels good,” Davidson admitted. “We have been here for six years on the rebuild and it was important that we get ourselves back into the playoffs.”
While the Blues have made it look so easy this season, Davidson said it has been quite the opposite for this Blues’ hockey club.
“We fought a lot of adversity this season,” Davidson explained. “We struggled in the beginning of the season, made a coaching change, had a lot of injuries, but in the end, found ways to win hockey games despite not having a fully healthy roster on the ice for much of the season.”
With the Blues’ ability to overcome the adversity they have faced this season, Davidson feels that the future looks very good for his hockey club and that they are prepared to do what they have to do to continue maturing as an organization.
“You have to continue to evolve and become better,” Davidson explained. “We have a lot of younger players who are very important to us who have not hit their ceilings yet and as such, have a lot of room for improvement.”
All in all, things are very good for the St. Louis Blues.
“We should have a good hockey club for the foreseeable future,” Davidson said. “Armstrong is very creative and is always looking for ways to improve this franchise and going forward, we will do just that for our organization and our fans.”
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.