Twitter has exploded today with news that many of us suspected since Mike Babcock was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ken Hitchcock has signed a one year contract extension to return to the St. Louis Blues bench as Head Coach:
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 26, 2015
Count me firmly in the camp of those deeply disappointed by the announcement. St. Louis is in need of some changes after four disappointing post-season performances and it could’ve started behind the Blues bench. Even promoting Kirk Muller would’ve been at least something different and yes, I think St. Louis has reached the point of needing “change for change’s sake.” Hitchcock’s system has been a winner in the regular season but if St. Louis wants to see a Stanley Cup they’re going to need a new approach.
This decision by Doug Armstrong has prompted another round of calls for the GM’s head but one has to assume that the choice was fully backed by Tom Stillman and his ownership group. Head coaches aren’t installed (or retained) and paid by an owner who doesn’t want him. I only hope now that the first piece of the 2015-16 puzzle has been played Army realizes what he must do to fill out the rest of the Blues bench.
Prior to Hitch’s official return, a couple of scenarios existed that all included major changes to both coaching staff and player personnel. With Hitch back behind the Blues bench, the focus now turns to the roster and the players who have participated (or not, as the case may be) in all four of the playoff failures since Hitchcock took over coaching the Blues. This list includes David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen, Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie. If all of these names are still wearing the Bluenote come September St. Louis is going to be an angry place for hockey fans.
Whether we see Oshie traded for draft picks to cut salary, Jax lost to free agency or a major upheaval that gives the Blues a new captain the rumors and predictions are already flying. I’m going out on a limb and saying Oshie won’t be wearing an A for the Blues next season but Backes will retain the C. Rest assured nothing will happen until after this season’s Cup is awarded but regardless of WHEN, fans are demanding a new look. Bringing in a new head coach would’ve been a good start in my opinion, but what do I know?
I know the 2015-16 season cannot start with the same team on the Blues bench that finished with another first round exit or we’ll be seeing even more empty seats than St. Louis already has. I’m eager to see if Armstrong can make the necessary moves to propel the Blues beyond Round One.