St. Louis Blues' Ken Hitchcock Is the Unquestioned Best Coach of the Year
If there's one trophy that's not up for discussion among candidates this season, it's the Jack Adams Trophy for Coach of the Year.
Earlier this season, the St. Louis Blues found themselves in familiar territory.
The team was stockpiled with talent, both young and old, a near perfect mixture of fresh talent and seasoned veterans to balance out the team in hopes that they would deliver a postseason berth to a playoff starved St. Louis fan base.
Starting the season off on a paltry 6-7 record, management decided it was time for a change behind the bench.
On November 6, Ken Hitchcock, former Stanley Cup-winning coach with the Dallas Stars and more recently Gold Medal-winning assistant coach of the Canadian Olympic team, was brought in to wright the ship.
Known for disciplinarian ways and imposing a defense-first system on all his teams, Hitchcock was an immediate success.
Any games that the Blues didn't win during those early days under Hitchcock were always close, and always came down to the wire.
Hitchcock's success is no more apparent in anyone than in Blues' net minders Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
Halak, the former Montreal Canadiens favorite was a big-ticket item in St. Louis, but was horribly under performing. Elliott was a cast aside goaltender from last season that many didn't think would have a job in the National Hockey League at the beginning of this year.
Who will win the Jack Adams?
If you look at either goaltenders' numbers today you can't decide which you'd rather nominate for the Vezina Trophy.
Not only did Hitchcock make superstars out of his goaltenders, but he also turned Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk into studs on the blue line.
The two youngsters are instant offense and have an unusually high ceiling for potential. The two defenseman are not even close to their prime but somehow have looked like battle-hardened veterans who simply just win since Hitchcock took over.
If you go up and down the ranks of the Blues you'll see one constant, and that is everyone has bought what Hitchcock is selling. Every scorer scores, every grinder grinds, every fighter fights. In many cases, one player has taken on every role imaginable by buying into Hitchcock's system.
Take captain David Backes for example.
Not only is Backes the team's leading scorer and points getter, but he has turned into one of the most complete players in the game. Backes hits, fights, grinds, plays great defense, eats minutes, and most importantly, wins games.
Under Hitchcock's system, Backes has recreated himself into one of the most physically imposing and dangerous players on ice. If Backes is comparable to anybody, past or present, you have to take a look at Jonathan Toews when the Chicago Blackhawks won the cup.
Backes is the Toews of 2012.
Does Hitch have what it takes to put his Western Conference leading Blues into the Stanley Cup Finals, delivering the city it's first ever championship?
With a wealth of knowledge and a treasure chest full of talent, experience, and grit at his disposal, the Blues look like they are well on their way to powering through the rest of the league.
Players are looking to make a statement that their style of hockey is the best, and they are ready to back up those claims with 16 postseason wins.
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