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Blog Entry

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

Posted on: November 6, 2011 9:13 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 11:14 pm
 

By Brian Stubits

Talk about coming out of the Blue: the St. Louis Blues fired their coach Davis Payne on Sunday night and hired Ken Hitchcock to replace him. Hitchcock's contract is signed through the 2012-13 season with St. Louis.

The first reaction: Huh? What did Payne do to get fired? His Blues are just one game below .500 on the season at 6-7. Granted, it's not an ideal start, but it's not awful. For his career in St. Louis, Payne was 67-55-15. Again, doesn't really scream fireable offense.

Payne certainly didn't seem to have the safest seat in the NHL, no doubt, but if bets were to be placed on the first coach to be fired this season, I don't think many would have put their money down on Payne.

"Success should be right there for them," Payne told Craig Custance of ESPN.com after the firing.

Then you look at the fact that Hitchcock was hired to replace him. Did the Blues just beat the Blue Jackets to the punch to get Hitchcock? You will remember that last week the rumor was that Scott Arniel was going to be ousted in Columbus and Hitchcock was going to return to the bench. Not now.

However, the fit does seem good for St. Louis. It is a big, physical team. Hitchcock likes to play a physical, defensive style of hockey. Also, there is a connection between Blues GM Doug Armstrong and Hitchcock. They worked together with the Stars and Hockey Canada.

Hitchcock also has a nice track record having won the Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars and has a career winning percentage of .588.

So while the timing is surprising, it makes a little more sense when you think of how Hitchcock and the Blues could be together. St. Louis might have seen the urgency to jump on Hitchcock before he could return to the bench in Columbus, where he was still under contract.

It will be interesting to see how the Blues respond to this. Often, coaching changes bring about a renewed energy in a team, and the Blues have talented players that could use a nice kick in the rear. A guy like Chris Stewart, who had 28 goals each of the last two seasons but only two this year, could be better. They have been trying to find a way to get him going all season. No player on the team has double digits in points so far.

Another player that a change could be helpful for is Jaroslav Halak. To be polite, he has stunk this season. In seven starts, he has a 3.35 goals against average and a .856 save percentage. Ouch. Maybe a new defensive philosophy will help. Then again, the Blues were already doing an excellent job at preventing shots, giving up just 26.2 per game this season, the second-lowest level in the NHL. Bad goaltending from Halak has been the Achilles' heel this season. When he turns it around, so will the Blues.

Photo: Getty Images

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Comments

Since: Sep 29, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 4:15 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

Hitchcock had a rough last few years with the Dallas stars...but then again, who wouldn't when the owner was Tom Hicks who was responisible for bankrupting not one but two pro sports Franchises (Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars).  Ken won a Stanley Cup with the Stars which remains their only cup victory...but with Hicks now out, the Stars look much better!  Best of luck to Hitchcock and the Blues...unless they're playing the Stars of course...Innocent



Since: Nov 8, 2011
Posted on: November 8, 2011 11:34 am
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

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Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: November 8, 2011 12:16 am
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

If a new owner comes in and decides to revamp the Blues roster it won't take much.
I agree, I was hoping the sale would have been completed by now so that they can move the pieces around into place.   So many unknown ceilings on some of these players makes them more valuable than they may otherwise be.     They have to move some of the RFAs because too many contracts at the same time can be really dangerous without some established veteran leadership sticking around for a while imo.   I think Stewart and Pietrangelo should be the priorities and then there's plenty more to work with.  

IF a new owner comes in, there is no telling how things will shake out.  I kind of think Davidson will be the first to go, possibly on his own.  He seems to be linked in with Checketts.
Davidson being linked with Checketts is what I assumed, but I haven't followed closely enough to know for sure.    It'll be extremely interesting, and I wish  I had a clue as to what the roster will look like.

My only concern is Hitchcock ruining some of the younger players like he did in CLB, with so many of them, some will be great and others may lose too much market value because of his "old-school" and abrasive approach that has caused him some trouble.   I do think the team will perform much better, I just worry a few of the young guys will drop in value more than would be accurate.   STL will have the cap flexibility and a large pool of good assets (players and contracts) that will be sought after, so IF that owner comes in and wants to win, it seems the foundation is there to build any type of team they want at this point. 
But, I think we can agree that the sale of the team will put everyone on edge for a while. 
Yep, and all the RFAs have to be thinking about it too. Either way, I think the situation will start to take shape by the trade deadline, and it'll be good for STL to get Hulzier I think.   I hope Checkett's doesn't nickle and dime his way into killing the deal so the Blues can start moving forward for the long term.    Should be fun to watch the next year and half or so at least.



Since: Nov 17, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:24 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

Thanks Bob,

You're right about the blueline being a problem and not deep enough.  In fact, they called Cole back up today.  It's hard for me to judge the Rundblad/Tarasenko trade until Tarasenko gets over to the NHL.  Another guy they let slip away was Jonas Junland, and I'm not sure if the Blues still own his rights or not? Armstrong did sign Huskins in the offseason to a one year deal, and he was playing well with Pietrangelo, until his injury.

One thing is for sure.  If a new owner comes in and decides to revamp the Blues roster it won't take much.  Only Backes and Polak are signed long term, and I think Halak, Sobotka, and maybe Steen are signed for 2 more years after this season.  However, I would be all over getting Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk locked in for 5 or 6 year contracts if their agent would go for it.

Once again, IF a new owner comes in, there is no telling how things will shake out.  I kind of think Davidson will be the first to go, possibly on his own.  He seems to be linked in with Checketts.  The Blues have a history of hanging on to their GM's, and I think Armstrong knew this as he waited for 2 years to take the job.  But, I think we can agree that the sale of the team will put everyone on edge for a while.



Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 10:19 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

I'm gonna argue that Armstrong is not the issue, and he's done a very good job as GM for STL since taking the position full time in 2010.
fair enough since it's just opinions.    In my opinion, since Armstrong was there in organization for 2 years before taking over, he would have been plenty familiar with the players and the system, not to mention how the bosses (checketts and Davidson) do things.

I strongly disagreed with Payne's coaching philosophy given the talent in the system.  So while I liked the mix of talent, I thought Payne was the wrong coach for that talent, I put the blame on Armstrong for that.   I applauded Armstrong's directional shift with the Johnson/Stewart trade and thought some of his other moves were okay.   I thought he did a terrible job assessing his blueline, as evidenced by the Johnson trade (corrected) and Runblad trade (they wish they had him).   Armstrong did nothing to bring in a veteran shut-down type d-man this offseason which I was critical of too.  It would have been a very affordable acquistion, even within a budget. 

I was not a fan of the Halak contract(paid too much), but I didn't think the trade was terrible either.   Anyway, my biggest gripe with Armstrong has been the way he's shuffled the Peoria guys up and down.   I think he's been hurting more development than helping.   Cole and McCrae never should have come up and I think their early callups did more harm than good, same for a few other players.   When gms start throwing prospects up in the middle of the season in the middle of a slump with a young team, nothing good usually comes out of it.   I wasn't a big fan of ARmstrong in Dallas either.   

You never mention John Davidson and where he falls into this in your opinion.  He surely had something to do with the firing of Davis Payne?  No? 
Good question.   I always thought that Armstrong carried more weight in the organization when it comes to the decisions on the ice.   It's very possible he stepped on Armstrong to fire Payne for the exact same reason of keeping his/their jobs.   I found it odd that somebody like Armstrong (good resume and options) would go into STL and wait for 2years.   I thought that would have meant that he would have plenty of autonomy when he did assume the position.  It's very possible that Davidson made the decision as I'm sure he's as worried about his job as Armstrong.   Good point about Davidson maybe being responsible for the firing.



Since: Nov 28, 2008
Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

Did he get a picture with a pornstar or a DUI???
Thats better than my Ducks so far record wise



Since: Nov 17, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 5:19 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

 
I think this is a move by gm that wants to keep his job.  By hiring a new and high profile coach, he's able to buy himself sometime with the new owner by saying how "they need some time and he's good iron in the fire" and what not.
Throw out Armstrong, and add an owner that is willing to spend a little more,
Bob,

This is the second time I've read something from you about changing the brass in STL.  I'm gonna argue that Armstrong is not the issue, and he's done a very good job as GM for STL since taking the position full time in 2010.

Armstrong's first move is probably the most questionable, and that was trading Eller for Halak.  Other than that, he's been on top of his game...trading Eric Johnson for Stewart and Shattenkirk...signing Matt Dagostini..trading Eric Brewer...trading Brad Boyes.  All while hovering around the salary floor.

You never mention John Davidson and where he falls into this in your opinion.  He surely had something to do with the firing of Davis Payne?  No? 

I agree that the Blues need a new owner who is willing to spend some money, but I don't agree that Armstrong is the problem.  The new owner could very well come in and clean house.  Happens a lot.  But, why the hate for Armstrong?  I just don't get it.



Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

There must be more to the story. Always is.
Probably.   I think this is a move by gm that wants to keep his job.  By hiring a new and high profile coach, he's able to buy himself sometime with the new owner by saying how "they need some time and he's good iron in the fire" and what not.    GMs do this when they can, Checketts doesn't care about hockey operations right now, so Armstrong is positioning himself to keep his job, it will work for a while.

Payne was, imo, a terrible coach for that roster.  Too many young players in a  complicated defensive rotation was bad enough, but his  "check first" style doesn't work with most of the forwards he has on the team, and it's ridiculous that he's had so long to get different linemates working together and hasn't been successful.  I think Armstrong set him up to fail to, but Payne never adjusted his coaching to the roster.    They have a bunch of talented players, and there's no reason for the inconsistency in STL the last few years.   

Hitchcock will get this team on track in a couple months.   Throw out Armstrong, and add an owner that is willing to spend a little more, and I think STL is in position to be a very solid franchise in terms of the "on ice" product for quite a while. 

After Hitchcock's issues with Filatov and some of the other young players in CLB, I would make sure STL trade Schwartz and Taraschenko before Hitchcock screws them up too.   Get him some defensive help with a few years experience instead.   There's enough goal scoring up potential up front already for them to be a playoff team.  Get Hitchcock some d-men, and I think STL will be very happy with things. 



Since: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

Very curious development. I thought Payne was doing a decent job. He'd only been at the helm for a year and a half. He took over as interim HC half way through the 2009 season and came close to getting the Blues into the playoffs. Missing the playoffs in 2010-2011 may have been the reason for his firing but heck, why not make the change before the season began? There must be more to the story. Always is.



Since: Jan 14, 2007
Posted on: November 7, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Blues fire coach Davis Payne, hire Ken Hitchcock

A few years ago, Chicago fired Denis Savard ...what....8 games into the season??  2 years later, they're hoisting the Stanley Cup.  Timing is everything...and if they feel they have the team but need a better (or different) coach, then so be it regardless of his record.


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