by PuckStopsHere on 11/07/11 at 03:17 PM ET
Yesterday the St Louis Blues fired coach Davis Payne and hired coach Ken Hitchcock who had been working as an advisor in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. Payne had been the St Louis coach since he was promoted to the position in January of 2010. During that time he posted a 67-70 record with 15 regulation tie points. He has not led his team to a playoff appearance. So far this season he has posted a 6-7 record. Though this has St Louis in 14th in the West Conference, they are only three points out of a playoff berth and are hardly out of the race. Davis Payne’s St Louis Blues are not struggling so badly that they demand a coaching change. The problem is that Payne is not a top NHL coach. He is a rather non-descript unaccomplished NHL coach.
Ken Hitchcock was available and he is a top NHL coach. Hitchcock has over 1000 NHL games coached and has led his team to a divisional win six times and won the 1999 Stanley Cup.
Hitchcock is one of the more accomplished active NHL coaches. He is a very strong defensive coach who will force the Blues to play a strong system. This should help them to maximize their success. I think Hitchcock will push the Blues into playoff contention. This is a significant improvement in the coaching position for the Blues.
The most intriguing part of this hire is that it had been rumored that the Columbus Blue Jackets might be bringing back Hitchcock. They are the last place team in the NHL with only two wins in fourteen games. Hitchcock is the only coach that has ever led the Blue Jackets into the playoffs. It was rumored that he might be replacing current coach Scott Arniel, who looks to need replacement.
Since Columbus had Hitchcock under contract they likely would have had to give him permission to speak with other teams (I am uncertain of the exact agreement that exists here). If Columbus was considering bringing Hitchcock back, why did they let him speak to another team? When was permission granted? It certainly appears that St Louis hired Ken Hitchcock out from under the Blue Jackets when the Blue Jackets needed him. What will Columbus do for a new coach now? They do not have anyone in the organization with any success in that position.
Ken Hitchcock is one of the best coaches in the NHL. He will help the St Louis Blues. He is a better coach than Davis Payne and that is a positive move for the Blues. Payne may not have done anything that demanded his firing, but it is a good move for the Blues. As for Columbus, they are well back in last place without any clear options when they make a coaching change.
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