The St. Louis Blues have fired Ken Hitchcock. Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong announced Wednesday morning that Hitchcock was relieved of his duties, with Mike Yeo stepping in to fulfill the role as the team’s new bench boss. The transition from Hitchcock to Yeo was expected to take place next season, but the Blues recent losing streak was clearly enough to force Armstrong’s hand.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) February 1, 2017
During the offseason, the Blues hired Yeo to be an associate coach – a role that was temporary as he was slated to take over the head coaching job from Hitchcock next season upon him stepping down from the position. For the Blues, this move comes due to the fact that the team has lost five of their last six games, and held a 5-8 record in the month of January.
Hitchcock held the role of head coach in St. Louis since Nov. 8, 2011. His record speaks for itself as he led the team to a 248-124-41 regular season record across six seasons. He sits in second place on the Blue’s all-time regular season win list and is fourth in NHL history with 781 regular season wins.
As Chris Johnston reported shortly after the firing, the St. Louis Blues rank last in team save percentage with a mark of .887 despite facing the fourth fewest shots per game. Adding to this, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun both shared their thoughts on Hitchcock. Dreger mentioned that Hitchcock wouldn’t want to go out like this as he’s a competitor, with LeBrun mentioning Vegas as a possible destination should the long-time head coach still want to coach a team. This is just some instant-reaction type analysis from some of the most trusted insider’s in the business, however, and shouldn’t be taken as a sign of things to come.
The Blues now turn to Yeo to coach a team that currently sits in a wild-card position in the Western Conference playoff race. Yeo led the Minnesota Wild to a 173-132-44 record in his time there as head coach. The team made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons under him as the coach, with two back-to-back appearances in the second round coming in 2014 and 2015. Yeo has also coached in the AHL with the Houston Aeros where he led the team to the Calder Cup Final in 2011, as well as spending 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2009, Yeo was an assistant coach with the Penguins who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Vancouver Canucks Won’t Mortage Future at Trade Deadline
Despite sitting just one point out of a wild-card spot at the midpoint of the season, the Vancouver Canucks will not mortgage their future in hopes of making the playoffs. When speaking to TSN 1040 on Tuesday, team president Trevor Linden had this to say on the matter:
“There’s no question we won’t be in the rental-player market, regardless of what (the playoff picture) looks like,” Linden said. “If there’s an opportunity … with a young player that we feel is an upgrade, we’ll certainly look at that. But there will be no situation where we’ll go and mortgage any future pieces to make a playoff push.”
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) February 1, 2017
Though the Canucks may still make moves at the deadline, it’s clear they won’t break the bank to acquire any big-name players or rentals with the intentions of a deep playoff run. The team could still make a big move should the opportunity present itself, but the team is looking at a long-term plan more so than a short-term run.
Linden went on to mention that the philosophy remains getting younger and developing – as a result, moves could happen, should they fit those criteria.
“If it makes sense on the whole philosophy of getting younger and developing then we’ll do that,” Linden said, “but we’ll see how the second half plays out.”
Odds & Ends
– As reported by Darren Dreger, the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche are likely to play in a two-game season next November in Sweden. Dreger mentions that the games are not finalized as of yet with the NHLPA having to sign off before the games are confirmed. Both Erik Karlsson and Gabriel Landeskog – the respective captains of the Senators and Avalanche, are Swedish.