Kukla's Korner Hockey
(June 13, 2016) - St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the Blues have named Mike Yeo Associate Coach. In addition, Armstrong announced that Yeo will be named Head Coach to begin the 2017-18 season and his contract will run through the 2019-20 season. Armstrong also announced that Rick Wilson has been named an Assistant Coach, while Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, Goaltending Coach Jim Corsi and Video CoachSean Ferrell will return to the coaching staff.
St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock opens up about where he sees himself now and after his one-year contract ends, says “I can’t see myself out of the game,” even after retiring from coaching.
(June 3, 2016) - St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that Blues forward Alexander Steen has undergone successful surgery on his left shoulder. The procedure was performed by Dr. Rick Wright and Dr. Matt Smith of Washington University Orthopedics. Steen is scheduled to be re-evaluated in 16 weeks.
Steen, 32, ranked second on the Blues with 52 points (17 goals, 35 assists) this past season. The 6'0, 212-pound forward also set postseason career highs in goals (4), assists (6) and points (10) during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native will enter his ninth season with the Blues in 2016-17.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
The Blues confirmed Tuesday that they were keeping their head coach, Ken Hitchcock, who agreed to another one-year contract extension. But as a result of the short-term contract offers made to the staff, associate head coach Brad Shaw is moving on and assistant Kirk Muller could be as well.
Both, particularly Muller, had been seen as potential successors to Hitchcock when he retired.
But that won’t be 2016-17, after the Blues and Hitchcock announced that he will be back for a sixth season with the team. It will be his 21st in the NHL and last in the league behind the bench, he insisted.
“I’m telling you right now, this is my last one-year deal,” said Hitchcock, who will turn 65 in December. “I’m not coaching after this year. This is it. So I’m done. I don’t know if I’m going to retire ... but I’m not coaching after this year.”...
In regard to Hitchcock’s successor in 2017-18, Armstrong said that he would consider promoting from within. The two possible replacements were believed to be Shaw and Muller.
But the Blues have decided not to offer any of their assistants a longer term than what they’re giving Hitchcock, and so after 10 years with the franchise, Shaw has decided to move on.
“It was a one-year (offer) and I just made the decision with my family that now is a good time to maybe take the next step in my career,” Shaw said. “It’s been a great 10 years here. I’ve had so much growth as a person and as a coach and met so many great people. It wasn’t an easy decision, I can tell you that.”
from Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko looked back on the playoffs on Tuesday, particularly on his series against San Jose, where he was held goalless until the final nine minutes of the final game, and felt he needed to do more.
"They played really tight and they backchecked so hard," Tarasenko said. "It's just experience. It was frustrating for me. I wish I could do better. I'm supposed to do better."...
"I wouldn't say I wasn't frustrated," Tarasenko said. "Of course I was a little bit mad. ... It's no time for frustration. Even if you don't score and the team wins, everybody helps. Now I have a lot of time to think about my game, look at my shifts and find out what's wrong. But when a team is winning, you don't even think about your points. It's nothing better when come into the room after a hard game, whether you score or not score, and you see those happy faces around you, your friends, really happy. You can't think about something else."
Tarasenko dismissed a report out of Canada about issues between him and the organization.
(May 31, 2016) - St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the Blues have signed Head Coach Ken Hitchcock to a one-year contract extension. Hitchcock was originally hired by the Blues on Nov. 7, 2011, becoming the 24th head coach in team history. The Edmonton, Alberta native will enter his sixth season behind the Blues bench in 2016-17.
from Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
During a locker clean-out that marked the transition from this season to next, Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko missed a chance to take out the trash.
The $60 million man declined to participate in the final media availability of the season on Saturday. The no-show was harder to explain than Tarasenko's disappearance in 17 of the Western Conference final's 18 periods. This time there wasn't San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to blame....
He could have told the doubters why they were wrong. He could have told those who defended him why things will be different next postseason. The new father could have explained what it was like, balancing the biggest moment of his personal life — he welcomed a son into the world before Game 2 — with the biggest moment of his professional career.
At least tell them something.
More importantly, Tarasenko's no comment closed the book on his season without addressing the elephant in the dressing room.
There is growing speculation of friction between Tarasenko and the Blues. Is there a rift between the star and his club?
from Jeremy Rutherford and Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
There are many questions facing the club this summer, perhaps some that will have light shed on them Tuesday, when general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock meet with the media.
But on Saturday, it was the players' turn to look back and look ahead. Here's a collection of news and notes from those interviews:
• David Backes had an emotional post-game interview following the Blues' Game 6 loss. During part of it, describing the kind act of teammate Steve Ott giving him "something" to help the captain stay in the lineup, knowing that would mean Ott wouldn't play, Backes broke into tears.
"I think I'm getting a Visine endorsement after that interview," Backes joked. "I've seen a bit of it and quite a few people have referenced it. That was real, that was raw, that was my heart right on my face and coming right out of my tear ducts. It's one of the hardest things I've done as an athlete is emerge out that room and have to face these cameras with that sort of emotion all over the place. In hindsight, I'm glad I came out and I talked. I think people could see how much it meant — and I was speaking for the whole group — what that opportunity and this run meant to these guys and that we didn't get it done. The sting of that is with every guy in this room."...
• Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was at the center of much trade speculation last offseason and that expects to be the case again this summer. He will be entering the final season of a four-year contract that has a salary-cap hit of $4.25 million.
"It was a wild year with all the rumors going on, and it might plant the seed of doubt in your head," Shattenkirk said. "But that's not my decision. I'm happy to be coming back here next year. I have a year left and this is where I want to be next year. That's out of my hands unfortunately."
from Craig Custance of ESPN,
By Game No. 20, the Blues were done. That they took this run just about as far as they possibly could have wasn't much consolation because they saw the finish line.
Two more wins and they would have been playing for a Stanley Cup.
The Blues, unlike in postseasons past, didn't choke or disappoint this spring. They simply got beat by a Sharks team that was relentless in its tracking, completely eliminating the Blues' rush game. San Jose had more speed and more energy -- and the Blues could never get their punishing forechecking game going for long enough stretches to catch the Sharks.
"We thought we had a team ..." said Blues forward Troy Brouwer before correcting himself. "We do have a team that's a championship-caliber team."
He's right. They do. The Blues proved it by beating a championship-caliber team in round one. They just happened to run into another championship-caliber team in the Western Conference finals. That's why it's so hard to win a Stanley Cup.
Good teams go home earlier than they want in the Stanley Cup playoffs all the time. It doesn't make it any easier.
from Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
When it was over, the captain cried.
David Backes came into the media interview with puffy, saddened eyes — possibly like the eyes reading this column were Wednesday night — and he broke down again when describing his team’s character.
“He’ll kill me for telling you this story,” a lip-quivering, watery-eyed Backes said after the Game 6, season-ending loss. “But Game 5, I’m not feeling well, and Steve Ott brings me something to help me feel better. Knowing that he’s the guy not going in the lineup if I can play, that’s pretty selfless — that’s the kind of guys we have in here. Just stories like that. Guys blocking shots, sacrificing their bodies. It’s tough to swallow. You know that the heart’s in here, the ability’s in there, but we came up short.”
The story is a tear-jerker in itself. It reminds you how much goes into this. It also makes you wonder where that character was on ice in Game 6, when the Blues needed to play hockey with fire. The Blues were gassed, and their performance was exasperating.
Watch Backes post-game below along with Ken Hitcock meeting with the media....
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