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The bittersweet reality of an NHL firing

Posted on 28 February 2017 by Ian Schrauth

Ken Hitchcock leaves lasting impact on city

 

By: DJ McGuire
Sports Editor

 

 

It was a sad day, Feb. 1, for St. Louis Blues fans across our city as the news broke that the Blues had fired Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. It was certainly an unexpected move made by owner Tom Stillman. I do believe however this was the right decision and it was time for a coaching change.

This firing will always be very bittersweet in my mind as the Blues have been struggling this year and unfortunately Hitchcock took the blame, and change was needed. However I will deeply miss him as a coach and a person in general.

Everyone will likely remember him for his coaching success and victories, and the very high likelihood of him becoming an NHL Hall of Famer, but I will always remember him for everything else besides the stats.

He always had a presence in interviews, whether he was donning his suit for games or wearing the standard hoodie he would wear to most practices. He would never shy away from a joke, or something to make everyone smile. He also pushed his players and motivated them to improve and better themselves. On top of that he had a clear deep love and understanding of the game of hockey.

It was all this and more that brought me and many fans to have a deep respect and love for Coach Hitch.

When Coach Hitchcock took over for the Blues they were a mess, the former head coach Davis Payne left the team in shambles. Their record was awful, the future looked bleak and no real identity had been established.

Once Hitchcock began coaching the Blues, everything changed. That year the Blues not only made the Stanley Cup playoffs but also registered 100 points which is the standard goal for NHL teams. Due to this incredible turnaround, Ken Hitchcock won the Jack Adams award, which is the coach of the year award in the NHL.

This success continued during the rest of his tenure as the Blues head coach. In every full season he coached in this role the team amassed 100 points and every single year they made the playoffs.

His only major critique of his time with the Blues, was their lack of postseason success. During his tenure the team has only made it to the Conference Finals once, and lost in the first round three seasons in a row.

After each painful postseason loss, fans argued about whether or not Hitchcock should remain head coach, but Tom Stillman remained firm in his coach.

Hitchcock had announced, since he is 65, that this season was going to be his last as a head coach and that he will retire at the end of the season. In response the Blues signed Mike Yeo, the former Minnesota Wild head coach as an assistant head coach and would take over as head coach when Hitch retired. This final season however was cut short as the Blues fired Hitch and Yeo immediately took over.

I believe that Hitch, even if he does retire, will surely be an NHL Hall of Famer. During his 21 years as an NHL head coach he coached four teams: the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and the St. Louis Blues of course. He won a single Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars.

Hitch is currently fourth all time in NHL coaching wins with 781 wins and second all time in Blues coaching wins. His winning percentage is the highest of any Blues coach as well.

Coach Hitchcock has issued a touching statement and thanked the Blues fans, for his wonderful time as head coach, but he is still unsure of what the future holds for him.

Whatever he does choose to do with his life, whether it relates to hockey or if he does retire, I hope his life goes on without a Hitch.

 

 

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