The woes of the St. Louis Blues in the past have often been placed on the coaches leading the team. The entire city seemed to rally behind their hatred of Mike Keenan, and ever since then the Blues lacked a coach that really won fans over. Following the last lockout, the Blues seemed to shift through coach after coach, never finding the one that was the right fit for their young, developing roster. The success of the St. Louis Blues last season was almost all due to the coaching change the Blues made at the beginning of last season. While Davis Payne was not a terrible coach, he lacked the real NHL experience to teach young players how to play as a team.
Enter, Ken Hitchcock.
Hitchcock was best known for his success in Dallas. When coaching the starts, Hitch always managed to be successful with the culmination of that success coming in 1998-99. Since then, Hitchcock spent time with the Flyers and Blue Jackets, but had never seen the type of success that he had in Dallas since. That changed when he took over the reigns of the St. Louis Blues. While leading the Flyers, Hitchcock made the playoffs but failed to make it to the cup. In Columbus, he did the unthinkable by coaching the team to the postseason (the only time in team history), but could never capitalize on that very brief moment in Blue Jacket history. When Hitch came to St. Louis it issued in a new era of his career, the era of the 200 foot game and a defensive style that saw the Blues take off and the coach win the Jack Adams.
Prediction: 31-14-3 record, will win Central Division, Conference Finals. I think that Hitchcock is going to come back and take the team by storm. After being eliminated last season he talked about a new way of clearing the puck from their own zone allowing for the team to make faster transitions. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch got this quote from Hitchcock in a recent article he wrote, “Gone, gone … rebuild it right from the start,” Ken Hitchcock said. “Assuming that we’re going to be able to just come in and where we finished (is where) we’re going to be able to start up is unrealistic because of where guys are at physically and mentally.” With that kind of thinking, Hitch is going to push his players even harder this season and I think it will pay off. I think the Blues will at very least make the Conference Finals, but injuries may get the best of this team and keep them out of the cup.
Back again this season are the assistant coaches Ray Bennett and Brad Shaw, but there is a newcomer in the group as well. For the 2013 season, Gary Agnew will join the Blues as an assistant coach. It was back onJune 15, 2012 that the Blues annouced the hiring of Agnew, who was then serving as Head Coach for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. Agnew brings in a new edge for the Blues as he served as an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets under Ken Hitchcock from 2006-2010. With these three assistants, I think the Blues have a great mix of previous experience with both the players and the head coach. Look for them to give great insight to Hitch and really aid in the development of St. Louis’s younger players.
All in all, the coaching staff of the St. Louis looks to be a winning combination that should bring experience and knowledge to a younger team. That mixture should help lend a hand to this team in the rushed season hopefully pushing them to go the extra mile and find the energy and desire to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. While we wait for the season to start, these coaches will be busy at work and I think they will get the team ready in the short amount of time that they have. As always, LET’S GO BLUES!