The St. Louis Blues have agreed to a one year contract with Ken Hitchcock, which puts the 63-year-old coach back in the saddle for a fifth season. The rest of the coaching staff will also remain in place.
Hitch’s contract was set for expiration on June 30 and general manager Doug Armstrong discussed the season with his coach before signing off on another year.
“I just had to make sure that the passion level that’s going to be necessary in November, December, January, February…the dog days of the season, that Ken still had that passion,” the GM said. “I didn’t want him to come back and feel that he was coming back out of anger and disappointment. I wanted him to come back out of excitement and energy. When we talked, I felt that.”
St. Louis has finished with at least 100 points in each of Hitchcock’s four seasons (the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season was an obvious exception). He’s 157-79-27 in the regular season and fourth all-time in the NHL for wins with 708 across his career.
The problem is in the post-season, where Hitchcock and the Blues have yet to find a stride. He’s 10-17 in the playoffs with St. Louis and Armstrong has to hope those numbers change. The Blues have lost four consecutive playoff series since 2012, including three straight first round exits – all with home ice advantage.
“This was a long process for me,” Hitchcock said. “It was very disappointing in losing, especially the lead-up to it when we were on top of our game, and having the ability to process that and go through it here in the last three weeks, it’s given me some time to detox…I’m really proud to be able to coach this hockey club again. I’m really proud the staff is back together.”
Many had wondered if the Blues would have the coach back after yet another early playoff exit and the club did talk to Mike Babcock about a gig before he signed off with Toronto.
For now, the plan between St. Louis and the Hitch is to take things on a yearly basis and to reassess at the close of each season. That suits both parties just fine.
“From a friendship standpoint and a coaching standpoint, from a relationship with players, this has been a great place for me,” Hitchcock said. “I just don’t want to cheat them. I don’t want to be signing on for a bunch of years that I know I can’t answer the bell for. So for me, this is a perfect scenario. I want to take this group to the next level and Doug gets to decide the stewardship moving forward.”