When my senior season with the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves came to a close, I was left with a decision – go join a pro team, or finish my college courses. I wasn’t exactly NHL-bound, but I knew that having some pro experience would help me as a rookie the next year, wherever I ended up.

But, I couldn’t just leave my classes, which I was weeks from finishing.

So, after a few very convincing phone calls, I found a compromise – I’d go play for Davis Payne and the Alaska Aces in the ECHL, with permission to miss the odd practice to attend school.

I wrote about Davis before he got the job in St. Louis. In that post, I explained why Davis is the best coach I ever played for. And to be clear, it wasn’t in a “he played me a lot” way (he didn’t), or a “we had a personal relationship” way (we didn’t) – I just thought he did a great job getting the most out of his team.

He’s the right mix of intelligent, reasonable, intimidating, intense, and prepared. Maybe his style doesn’t mesh with NHLers as well as it did with ECHLers, I don’t know.

What I do know is that, while I don’t like Doug Armstrong’s decision to fire him, I dislike the decision to hire Ken Hitchcock more.

A few caveats: Ken Hitchcock is a smart hockey man, and by all accounts a good guy. I think St. Louis will do fine with him. After all, the rookies Davis helped develop are full-on pros at this point, and I felt like they were poised to break through. Apparently I’m more patient than Doug Armstrong.

With the way the game has changed, I’m just not a fan of old-school coaches, and Hitch is just about as old-school as it gets. He was at his best when players could hook, hold, and most notably, trap. While I doubt he’ll go back to leaning on the trap, he’ll likely have some of their young talent playing defense-first hockey. Enjoy, season ticket holders!

If I were Davis, I think I’d have a few reasons to feel bitter:

You fire a guy who’s a disciplinarian and a tactician…then hire the same.

You fire a guy who’s coached nine games on the road and four at home, right before a five game home stand. I’m sure he would’ve appreciated the opportunity to go through that stretch to show where the boys are at.

You fire a guy whose starting goalie has played like dog meat. Jaroslav Halak is sporting a .856 save percentage, and a 3.35 GAA. Is there any chance he keeps playing that bad?

The only logical reason I can think of for this to happen now is that St. Louis thought Columbus was going to hire him, they wanted him if things didn’t work out with Payne later in the year, so they pulled the trigger early to make sure they got their guy.

Otherwise, this one makes no sense to me.

Comments (9)

  1. Like always, your insight provides a different angle(read: better) than most other blogs.

    keep it up!

  2. There is room for a defensive team to be exciting and score a lot of goals. The Coyotes are currently 7th in GF/G and they weren’t too bad last year either.

    I don’t know much about Hitchcock or the situation in St. Louis, but I know that I like it a lot more with my Coyotes winning than when they were losing.

  3. Hey, what’s with the hating on old guys… I mean, NJ did similar last year, going to a reliable standby after the young coach didn’t work so well. Look at how they recovered after that. It makes you wonder, what if they canned JMac sooner and had Lemaire behind the bench for an extra month?

    That said, I think this was too quick of a trigger. Any team firing a head coach before December is just screaming desparate.

  4. Thanks Drew.

    Peter – Dave Tippett is the best coach in the NHL, for real. But I don’t think they’re an exciting team. As for STL, Davis is defensively responsible, but I think Hitch takes it too far.

    MikeK – There are examples of it working and not working. I just don’t like it.

  5. Why not hire a better goaltending coach first?

    (And hire said better goaltending coach before Columbus does, as well.)

  6. Sometimes coaches who players like are not the best coaches overall,he had reputation to be “players coach”,ex. T.J O said that he let us play how we want?! maybe he is best suited for Ahl-Echl level,in the big show results matter,fun to watch has no weight when team has missed playoffs 4 time in 5 years. And maybe new owner wants his own man behind bench.

  7. the first thing i thought of when i heard about hitchcock being hired was how david person’s game just died.

  8. perron. not person… dumb.

  9. I think he lost the core players.. benching Oshie in the 2nd after getting a goal in the 1st against philly…

    Benching Berglund for most of the 3rd in a game.. Not following suit with other vets when they make even worse plays..

    Also JB you didn’t touch on the PP, which he constantly jumbled, and couldn’t convert with…

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