Best Coach

Ken Hitchcock

This past hockey season started in familiar fashion for Blues fans. Promises made on the backs of young players with untapped potential, a new energy, an end to the rock-bottom phase of the rebuilding plan and a return to winning ways, or at least the playoffs. Of course, the team lurched out of the gate and scudded along aimlessly, same as always since the Laurie gutting. So we pull the trigger and fire the coach and bring in Ken Hitchcock, most recently let go from his behind-the-scenes position in the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets organization — not really an inspired hiring, said the knee-jerk chorus at the time. (See "Best Move," elsewhere in this issue.) But whaddya know? Old Hitch comes in with a chip on his shoulder, announcing at his introductory press conference that he'll need just one practice to ignite the sputtering power play and laying out plans for a return to a fast-skating, relentless attack sprung from the defense out. And sonofabitch, it works. All those preseason promises came true practically overnight as the Blues go on a tear. Young guys T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Patrik Berglund go ape-shit crazy on the ice, skating like marauders and stealing games all over the place. Hitch platoons the goalies, and both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott become bulwarks of GAA (goals against average), carrying the team when it works its way through the inevitable growing pains. Sure, the season ended on a bum note, a four-games-and-out series against the LA Kings, but everything up until that point was golden. Hell, it was better than golden — it was promised to us, and only Ken Hitchcock could actually assemble the pieces so the promise was delivered. If there's actually a season this year, we've got a great shot at going further than any Blues team in a decade, as long as Hitch is behind the bench.

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