(Follow Dave Cunning’s blog “Serenity Now,” and follow him on Twitter here)
While the NHL lockout rolls on, fans may forget there is a group of personnel that is not aligned with either the NHLPA or team owners in CBA negotiations, yet is directly affected by the league’s labor stall – NHL coaches.
Nearly a year after taking over as head coach of the St. Louis Blues, guiding his team to a second round playoff appearance, and winning the Jack Adams Award for the NHL’s Coach of the Year, Ken Hitchcock is just as busy preparing for a season with an unknown start date as he would be if it were already underway.
I had a chance to interview Hitchcock and he gave me his thoughts on his coaching philosophy, on replacing Davis Payne in St. Louis during last season, and other topics.
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No one is sitting here saying the St. Louis Blues weren’t a great story last year. They started out just 6-7-0 under Davis Payne, due to a number of issues, and hired Ken Hitchcock instead. After losing seven of the first 13 games they played, they went on to lose just 15 more over the course of the season, allowing the fewest goals ever in an 82-game campaign, tying for second in the league and winning the division traditionally dominated by the Chicagos and Detroits of the world.
But what you can’t, or at least shouldn’t, then take from all that success — and there was a lot of it, at least until they were gutted by the Kings in the second round — is a belief that because of the team’s previous extraordinary, improbable winning, it will be able to improve to become the best in the West. That is, of course, what the Hockey News thinks is going to happen. The Blues, No. 1 in the Western Conference. Ahead of Vancouver, ahead of Los Angeles. Yes, predictions of pretty much any kind are stupid, but it takes a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to posit that this team will actually go out and win the West given a number of factors. (All this assumes, by the way, that we’ll play an 82-game season in 2012-13, which I know we absolutely will not, so you can go ahead and just hang onto those comments.) Read the rest of this entry »