St. Louis Blues: Remembering Ken Hitchcock On His Return

The St. Louis Blues will see a familiar face when they face the Dallas Stars in their home opener. That familiar face will be in a very unfamiliar position in the arena though.

When the St. Louis Blues face the Dallas Stars in their 2017-18 home opener, they are going to see a very familiar face in the building. Ken Hitchcock is going to be in the Scottrade Center. He just is going to be in a quite strange spot.

After spending parts of six seasons behind the Blues bench, Hichcock is going to get a view that he has not seen since 2009. He is going to see the game from the visitor’s bench.

Hitchcock was hired by the Dallas Stars in the offseason, just in case you’ve been living under a rock. The schedule makers are either very cheeky or just quite coincidental in having this game this early.

It will be players vs. former boss. Well, not really but sort of. Several players never actually played under Hitch, such as Tage Thompson or Vince Dunn.

The bottom line is that Hitchcock is still going to be quite familiar with this team though. It is up to the players on the Blues bench to overcome that. They have to play their game and Mike Yeo’s style and not worry about what their former leader is doing to shut them down.

It was not all bad things for Hitchcock during his tenure here though. There were plenty of great times, even if some fans choose to ignore that.

During Hitchcock’s tenure, only Pittsburgh had more playoff wins. That’s right, the Blues had more playoff wins than even the mighty Chicago Blackhawks. They just did not get the hardware.

While he was in St. Louis, only Pittsburgh had a higher winning percentage. The two teams were actually tied in terms of wins. That is pretty good company.

Hitchcock had two problems in St. Louis. One was an issue he has had everywhere and the other was specific to the Blues.

The problem he has had everywhere was he just wears out his welcome. Whether with fans or players, mostly players in this instance, his message gets old.

As a more old school fan, I never tired of Hitchcock and was very disappointed in how the team essentially quit on him to get him fired. The bump in energy they got from Yeo cannot be ignored though, so perhaps listening to the same thing year after year really can just wear a player out.

The specific issue with the Blues, and the issue with most fans, was his inability to get the team over the hump in the playoffs. While he won two division titles and never finished lower than second in the Central, Hitchcock could only get the Blues to the conference finals once.

His teams flamed out in the first round three times and the second round once. Interestingly enough, it was Yeo who almost cost Hitchcock is job that year when the Minnesota Wild beat the Blues in the opening round.

Still, you can’t completely hate the man that took the Blues further than they had been in 15 years. We should remember those times fondly.

He defeated Chicago in the playoffs, which had not happened since 2001-02 and that Ed Belfour incident back in the 90’s. Even in the midst of a bad season, he rallied the team together and gave us a truly memorable Winter Classic win.

If nothing else, he gave us several entertaining fan-made Twitter accounts.

The younger generation has become accustomed to the Blues being good again. I grew up the same way, coming into my fandom when the Blues were in the midst of their 25 straight playoff seasons. That made the mid-2000’s all the more difficult.

Seeing those teams struggle so mightily was a complete shock to the system. Hithcock helped bring back the pride in being a Blues fan.

We would all still love our team even if he had never come here, but it is just different. He brought back that winning culture and pride in bringing effort every game (even if not a full 60 minutes each game, but that’s a topic for a different time).

He pushed players that did not want to be pushed. Sometimes he made them better and a couple times, just bitter. The guy was and is a great coach though. You don’t become the fourth, and soon third, winningest coach in the NHL if you aren’t good.

We are all allowed to hate Hitchcock for one night. Nobody should want him to succeed on this night or any night when the Blues play Dallas.

That doesn’t mean we need to hate him forever. For me the time is already now, but for others it will come later. Eventually, I think we’ll all look back at Hitch’s time here positively. When Joel Quenneville left, fans did not care for him either for the same reasons, i.e. playoff failure. Now, we wish we could have him back.

Fans can whine all they want about the playoff exits. We all did it in the moment. The journey was always fun though.

Personally, I thank coach Hitchcock for his time in St. Louis and the effort he put into the team. I want the Blues to thank him by crushing Dallas, but in as nice a way as possible.