The move is a bit of a surprise, although Yeo was always the coach-in-waiting for St. Louis. It was widely known that the 2016-2017 season was to be Hitchcock’s last with the Blues, but most people assumed he would make it through the year.
The team is coming off a loss on Tuesday night and has a 24-21-5 record, good for fourth in the Central Division. They’re still a playoff team, but they’ve lost four of their last six games and were 5-8 in January.
Their goaltending has been awful, with Jake Allen, Carter Hutton and Phoenix Copley accounting for the worst collective save percentage in the NHL.
The Blues lined up Yeo as Hitchcock’s replacement before the current season and pinned him as an assistant coach, but he’ll be taking over sooner than anticipated as the team fights to keep their wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Yeo served as head coach of the Minnesota Wild from 2011 to 2016. He posted a 173-132-44 record and led the team to the post-season in three of his four completed seasons. Unfortunately, Yeo’s Wild lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in each of their playoff outings and he was fired 55 games into the 2015-2016 season.
Hitchcock went 248-124-41 in six seasons with St. Louis, leading them to either first or second place finishes in the Central Division in each season. His success didn’t carry over to the playoffs, however, and his Blues saw back-to-back first round exits in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 before finally reaching the conference finals in 2015-2016.
In 1,454 games as head coach of the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Blues, Hitchcock has posted a 781-474-88-111 record. That’s a career winning percentage of .606, with eight divisional titles under his belt in that span. His playoff record to date is 86-82. He won the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1998-1999.
Hitchcock’s career regular season wins have him fourth on the all-time list, with Al Arbour sitting in third place with just one more victory.
There is already considerable chatter about a potential next destination for Hitchcock, especially with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights looking for their first-ever bench boss. Now that’s a pretty interesting possibility.