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.
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.