St. Louis Blues Future: Hitchcock Needs Stanley Cup Victory


On May 26, 2015 the St. Louis Blues re-signed head coach Ken Hitchcock to a one-year contract. This extension came one month after the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the third straight year.

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While the first post in this series covered the importance of Vladimir Tarasenko signing a new eight-year contract this off-season, the one-year length of Hitchcock’s contract has been a sizable talking point for Blues fans this summer as well.

This past season Hitchcock became just the fourth coach in NHL history to reach 700 wins. Hitchcock trails only Joel Quenneville, Al Arbour, and Scotty Bowman on the all time win list. Each of these four coaches with at least 700 career wins coached the Blues during their careers. All these coaches won at least one Stanley Cup with teams other than the Blues.

Read that last paragraph again.

Armstrong hasn’t placed the blame for the lack of playoff success solely on Hitchcock. The moves this off-season have proved that the players share in the blame for the perennially poor postseason performances.

The four best coaches in NHL history have all coached for the Blues, but still none of them have been able to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis. It is this historic lack of success in St. Louis that led General Manager Doug Armstrong to only offer Hitchcock a one-year contract.

Over the nearly four years that Hitchcock has been the coach of the Blues, St. Louis has the best regular-season record in the NHL.

The Blues, under Hitchcock, have managed to post 175 wins, 79 loses, and 27 overtime/shootout losses since November 7, 2011.

Despite the Blues regular season success under Hitchcock, the playoffs have been a different story for the team. The Blues have only made it past the first round of the playoffs once in the last four years, back in 2012 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks before getting swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

Hitchcock has one Stanley Cup to his name. Back in 1999 Hitchcock led the Dallas Stars to the only Stanley Cup in franchise history. Some would say that this is proof that Hitchcock has what it takes to lead an organization to their first championship.

Just because something has happened before does not mean that it will happen again.

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock addresses the media after a game five loss in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Armstrong is all too aware that there are no guarantees in hockey. The one year contract that he gave to Hitchcock is a sign that this season is going to be one that all fans should be intently watching. Hitchcock is being shown that this year is his time to prove he belongs behind the Blues bench.

Re-signing Hitchcock to a one-year deal says a few things about management’s perspective on the state of the team. The fact that Hitchcock got re-signed shows that Armstrong has faith in him as a coach.

Armstrong hasn’t placed the blame for the lack of playoff success solely on Hitchcock. The moves this off-season have proved that the players share in the blame for the perennially poor postseason performances.

Some people think that one-year contracts can be bad for the players under the coach. One thought process involves the potential lack of consistency behind the bench leading to some players not giving the current coach all that they have to offer. I would be surprised if this is an issue for the Blues this season, as the players are as much on the hot seat as Hitchcock.

Armstrong will give Hitchcock anything to help him succeed immediately in the playoffs. This is evident through several offseason player changes, including the loss of Barret Jackman to free agency, as well as the trade of T.J. Oshie. While I don’t expect any more big changes to the roster this offseason, this is a season where we could see some big mid-season trades from the Blues as they make their push for the teams first Stanley Cup.

Anything could happen this season.

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One thing we know is that the Blues must have a strong postseason if we don’t want to have a drastically different looking team leading into the 2016-2017 season. I’m not suggesting that the Blues have to win the Stanley Cup this year, but I believe that a playoff exit before the conference finals would lead to a big roster shake up and a new coach.

While some people will think that a Stanley Cup this season is the only way for Hitchcock to keep his job, a conference finals loss would be a great stepping stone for a team that has no experience going late into the postseason. That would prove that the Blues have learned how to play playoff hockey, and getting so close to the Stanley Cup Final might be the extra push that some players need to take the whole thing next season.

The year before the Stars won their Stanley Cup under Hitchcock, they were eliminated in the conference finals. If the Blues can make it to the conference finals this year, then Hitchcock deserves our trust that he can repeat the trend that got him his first Stanley Cup.

However, if the Blues are eliminated from the playoffs before the conference finals this year, you can guarantee that Hitchcock will not be the coach of the Blues for the 2016-2017 season.

This is the second article in a series analyzing the winners and losers of the contract changes that affected the Blues this offseason.

Next: Introducing St. Louis Blues Fan Andrew Martin

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