Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
Blog Entry

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

Posted on: November 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:34 pm
 
Hithcock1Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the defensive improvement teams and goaltenders have seen under the coaching of new St. Louis Blues bench boss Ken Hitchcock.

By: Adam Gretz


Ken Hitchcock was recently named head coach of the St. Louis Blues, taking over for Davis Payne in what was the NHL's first coaching change of the 2011-12 season. 

Throughout his coaching career Hitchcock has developed a reputation for being one of the best defensive coaches at the NHL level. It's a reputation he's earned during three different stops with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, a tenure that's seen him win over 530 games, reach the Stanley Cup Finals twice (winning one) and coach in the Conference Finals four times.

In the 10 full seasons he's coached in the NHL, his teams have finished in the top six in goals allowed seven times, including two seasons at the top of the NHL -- once with the Dallas Stars during the 1998-99 season, and once with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2002-03. It also helps that Hitchcock's teams are typically among the best in the NHL at not allowing shots on goal. Since 1997-98, every team he's coached for a full season, including those in Columbus, has finished in the top-nine in terms of allowing the fewest shots on goal in the NHL, with seven of them finishing in the top-six.

Of course, some of that defensive success comes from the fact that some of those teams, particularly the ones in Dallas, were loaded with defensemen like Richard Matvichuk, Derian Hatcher, Daryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov, as well as a three-time Selke winner in Jere Lehtinen. But every team he's coached, whether it's been in Dallas, Philadelphia or Columbus, has been a difficult team to score against, no matter what players have made up his defense or filled the net. And goalies seem to play better for his teams than at any other point in their careers.

Just looking at the season's that he coached a full season, here's a look at each team's overall save percentage (compared to the league average) and where they've ranked in total goals allowed:

Ken Hitchcock Defensive Record (Full Season Coaching Only)
Team Year Save Percentage League Avg. Dif. Goals All. Rank
Dallas Stars 1996-97 .906 .905 +.001 3rd
Dallas Stars 1997-98 .913 .906 +.007 2nd
Dallas Stars 1998-99 .915 .908 +.007 1st
Dallas Stars 1999-00 .920 .904 +.016 3rd
Dallas Stars 2000-01 .910 .903 +.007 2nd
Philadelphia Flyers 2002-03 .920 .903 +.017 1st
Philadelphia Flyers 2003-04 .912 .911 +.001 6th
Philadelphia Flyers 2005-06 .896 .901 -.005 17th
Columbus Blue Jackets 2007-08 .910 .909 +.001 9th
Columbus Blue Jackets 2008-09 .906 .908 -.002 9th

In eight of Hitchcock's 10 full seasons, his team has posted a save percentage above the league average, and in some cases significantly above the league average. And while it's true he's had some strong goaltenders over the years, he also had the best defensive team in the NHL in 2002-03 with a Flyers team that used Roman Cechmanek and Robert Esche as its two primary goaltenders.

But what about the individual goalies? How much of a boost do they see while playing in what has traditionally been a tight-checking, defense-first style of play?

When looking at Steve Mason's recent struggles in Columbus I made mention of how much better he performed during his rookie season, when Hitchcock was in charge, and how his play rapidly dropped following Hitchcock's exit from central Ohio. Let's look at seven goalies that spent significant time playing under Hitchcock's systems and saw an improvement in how they performed within them, compared to how they performed under other coaches throughout their careers.

Goalies With Hitchcock vs. Without
Player Team Save % With Save % Without Dif
Steve Mason Columbus Blue Jackets .908 .895 +.013
Pascal Leclaire Columbus Blue Jackets .908 .900 +.008
Robert Esche Philadelphia Flyers .905 .890 +.015
Roman Cechmanek Philadelphia Flyers .925 .916 +.009
Ed Belfour Dallas Stars .909 .904 +.005
Marty Turco Dallas Stars .922 .908 +.014
Roman Turek Dallas Stars .910 .906 +.004

Good news for Jaroslav Halak, perhaps?The Blues' goalie has been off to a dreadful start to the 2011-12 season (and has been outplayed by backup Brian Elliott) and if there's a goaltender in the league that could use any sort of a positive boost right now, it's definitely Halak, who gets the start on Tuesday night in Hitchcock's debut against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Comments

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: November 9, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

Boring slow down trap game. Any wonder goalies do good in the deadpuck hockey sysem 2 goal games are high scoring. Hitchcock loves that dirty interference style game.


nootsoop
Since: Nov 9, 2011
Posted on: November 9, 2011 12:27 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: November 9, 2011 9:59 am
 

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

Halak should flourish is Hitch's system...should be a wake up for this team. All these young guys will have a fire lit under them and a winning system to work with. His stay in Columbus not included- he didn't have the horses there- he wins wherever he goes. There won't be a better prepared team than his.



Since: Aug 31, 2011
Posted on: November 9, 2011 9:22 am
 

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

Hitchcock was the right move to make at this point of the season.  The Blues needed a quick change and they got it.  Glad to see the players responded and gave him a shutout against the Blackhawks.

I love how in the article though, he says Hitchcock's teams finished in the top six in seven seasons.  Who counts top sixes?  I think the more impresive way to say that would have been finishing in the top three for six seasons.

Hopefully this will be the spark that the blues need.




Since: Dec 7, 2009
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:37 am
 

Ken Hitchcock's defensive influence

The Blue Jackets definately had their best defensive teams under Hitchcock...at least in his first 2 years there. For all 3 years, they were above the league average on the penalty kill. Nash also had his best year under Hitch. He loves big guys grinding in out...he loves that stubborn, old-skool hockey, which ultimately was his demise in Columbus.
Jaraslav Halak? Who needs 'em? Maybe it's Brian Elliot's year.
At least now Blue Jacket/Blues fans will have a rivalry this year...game 1 - Sun Nov 27 ...



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com