The St. Louis Blues' sluggish 6-7 start to the season certainly called for internal change, and the hockey world should not have been surprised by the firing of head coach Davis Payne.
The third-year coach compiled a record of 61-48-15 during his tenure with St. Louis. Unfortunately, that was no where near good enough, especially with a club that has young, gritty, talented players.
Shortly after Payne was axed by the Blues, the team signed a very seasoned veteran coach in Ken Hitchcock. He received a deal through the 2012-13 season with the team hoping he could bring out the best in the young corps of the Blues.
It's fair to say he has done just that.
"Hitch" is off to an impressive start with St. Louis. In his first four games, the Blues are 3-0-1 and have dominated both of their rivals: the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. While four games under the 59 year-old Hitchcock is a small sample size, don't think this isn't a representation of what the Blues will accomplish under his reign.
This is Hitchcock's 15th season as a coach in the National Hockey League. He has also coached the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and the Columbus Blue Jackets while accumulating 537 wins. That is good for 14th on the all-time list.
In 1999, Hitchcock coached the Stars to a Stanley Cup title and the next season he led them to the Cup where they fell in six games to the New Jersey Devils.
Along with his successes as a coach, Hitchcock has also earned the reputation of a hard-nosed, in-your-face coach. This parallels his style of coaching, which is emphasizing a tight defensive game, managing the boards, and shooting up to the red line.
His coaching strategies have worked well for the Blues and will continue to do so.
Under Davis Payne's conservative hockey style, the Blues had problems with offside calls and icing more than most other teams. The players in St. Louis are a group who needed a faster style of play that allows them to gain space on the forecheck and get around defensemen.
Hitchcock's style is just that. Since implementing his game, the young Blues are getting to show their speed and physicality, especially players like T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart. Stewart recently received a three-game suspension for a vicious hit on Niklas Kronwall.
The way the Blues are playing under Hitchcock is reminiscent of their playoff days and the decades of success the Blues had in St. Louis. Fans should expect them to keep this up.
Ken Hitchcock is a perfect fit behind the bench at Scottrade Center.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.
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