Blues: The Ken Hitchcock Debate

Take a look at the standings, folks. Things look pretty, right? The Blues are 42-19-5, good for 89 points and 2nd place in the Western Conference. While they haven’t played their best hockey of late, the Blues seem to be holding up quite well while the Nashville Predators experience rough times. The Blues power play ranks 4th in the league and their goals per game is strong. Why then do I feel the need to be pessimistic then with this Blues team? If I woke up today and looked at their record, I would be assaulted for suggesting this team could disappoint fans again this spring. With the Blues, you must take the record with a grain of salt. I am still not convinced this team can win it all. I’m not leading the downer crew here but simply covering all the corners. Let’s push it further then shall we? My question of the day is if the Blues do collapse, who gets the majority of the blame? Ken Hitchcock, Doug Armstrong or the players?

I’ve wrestled over this fact for weeks. Hitchcock has taken one team to the Stanley Cup Championship parade, but hasn’t taken another team deep into the playoffs in 15 years. As he eases through his year to year contract status, is he the man the Blues need behind that bench now or further down the road? Are the Blues players really playing for him? It can’t be shuttled to the back of the bus. Athletes are meticulous freaks when it comes to emotions, putting those emotions into their play and being driven by coaches. If they don’t buy into a head coach’s attitude and beliefs, is it fair to think that man is right for the job? The Blues once again have a great record in March and seem poised to make a deep run. Let’s jump ahead and imagine a world where they fall hard, in the first round. It’s not nonsensical to think about it. This franchise has disappointed fans for years, so the relative push to imminent doom shouldn’t be frowned upon.

Their run of play lately, especially at home, is disturbing. They’ve lost 3 of their last 5 games at Scottrade, and barely got by Tuesday night after Winnipeg made a strong third period push. Their defense breaks down far too easily and doesn’t have a lot of depth with the injury to Kevin Shattenkirk, the loss of Ian Cole and the delayed arrival of recently acquired Zbynek Michalek. Help isn’t coming in and the trade deadline is gone. Armstrong didn’t make any big moves or upgrade any area in a big way, or at least I haven’t seen it. Robert Bortuzzo likes to hit people but what else can he do. Olli Jokinen hasn’t made a dent yet. This team is set to make a run but what happens if it falls short.

I present both arguments.

Pro Hitchcock Argument

The players are the ones that take the ice and compete. The current core of players(Backes, Oshie, Berglund, Pietro) have experienced more than one head coach and are failing to beat other great teams, especially in the playoffs. Why should we blame a head coach who has taken a team all the way and done an amazing job(wins and losses wise) behind the bench? Hitch is a veteran hockey mind and puts the team in a position to win. He instantly helped this team when he arrived and there’s no guarantee another coach steps in and does better. Also, it doesn’t help that Armstrong didn’t give him any extra firepower this year at the deadline. Come on, he’s going for win #700 tonight. He’s got to be money, right?

Anti Hitch Argument

Get real, this guy makes more line changes than Mike Matheny makes double switches and bunt requests. Tonight, he puts rough and tough fourth liner Chris Porter on a line with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. He’s moved Patrik Berglund all over the place. Every time the other team scores a bad goal, he looks like he just got beat in trivia crack. What is he drinking? Hitch constantly befuddles with his line changes, prep, and doesn’t appear to be the most fiery bench guy either. Where is a Bruce Boudreau or Darryl Sutter “f__k mixtape” when you need it?  In his years here, Hitch hasn’t found a way to push the Blues to the next level or in St. Louis Hockey terms, to the second round of the playoffs. As a coach, some of the blame falls on him right? Is he really the guy and if the Blues fail, does he deserve to stay? What will he do different next year with the same group? These players know him by now and if they aren’t liking the soup he’s putting on the table, is it time for a different dose of coaching?

The Armstrong Blame Game Attack

Four things. First, why trade for Michalek? His head isn’t right. Second, where is Ty Rattie? Third, why did you give Berglund that three year extension again? Fourth, Robert Bortuzzo has a better name and its Roman Polak. You’ve made some good moves but you’ve also made some questionable and a few bad ones.

In the end, folks, it’s hard to choose which side of the gate I stand on. I struggle with it daily(okay, not every day). Ultimately, each Hitch crowd had a solid debate. Each side of my internal struggle about the head coach has stamina. I can tell you this. If the Blues flat line quick again next month, Hitch won’t be back. He will either decide to walk away or Armstrong will give him the boot. That’s a discussion for another day.

Right now, the Blues aren’t in bad shape but they are shaky. The Flyers come in tonight to wreck havoc at Scottrade. The Blues go on a 5 game road trip soon. Something about this team bothers me. What do you think it is? Tell me in the comments section below.

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