Payne will develop young Blues talent

Ashley Glatz, Inside Hockey

The Blues replaced coach Andy Murray with interim coach Davis Payne — and a coaching change is not surprising for this team as of late. As Blues’ president John Davidson said, “A new voice is something that needs to be with our club right now. Davis will provide that. “

The Blues have had a terrible record at home (6-13-3) and are sitting on raw young talent, including Erik Johnson, Patrik Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo, Lars Eller, T.J. Oshie and David Perron. Looking back at last year, Murray would bench Perron for any simple mistake to “teach him a lesson.” Perron lately has been outstanding and the second leading scorer on the team.

This season, Johnson, who was out for 18 months last year with an ACL operation, and Berglund have been “punished” for mistakes that they should be expected to be making at their age — they’re both 21. Johnson sat out on Tuesday night against Nashville for unknown reasons, yet is fifth in points on the team, while Berglund has six points in the past five games he has played. Murray’s style of “grounding” young players was not well liked by media or the organization and did not help players grow.

Davidson summed up the mistakes Murray made quite clearly.

“If a kid is not practicing hard or making redundant mistakes over and over again, then maybe he deserves to sit on his butt," he said. "But if a kid’s making mistake out of passion or out of try and has worked his butt off at practice, stick him back on the ice and let him play.”

With Payne, the team hopes to develop these players into the stars they really are. Payne has four years experience with the Peoria Rivermen, and previously coached in the East Coast Hockey League where he earned a championship.

“He knows young players because he’s coached young players a lot, “ Davidson said. “One thing we promised our fans was come and grow with us and watch our young kids grow. Going forward, we really look to improve our kids with Davis.”

While Payne knows how to develop this young talent, he is not as concerned about the age of the team as much as the talent.

"Their birth certificate largely doesn’t matter to me," Payne said. "If they are performing well and doing the right things and are accountable in the process, that gives the St. Louis Blues success and that is what we’re here for.”

Davis has coached some of these younger players at prospect and development camps, including Traverse City.

Payne’s biggest change with this team will be mentally, not physically.

"I asked these guys to work hard for each other and asked them to trust each other and to play with passion.”

According to Davidson, Payne is someone with a lot of energy, good communication skills, competitive and plays an aggressive style of hockey, which was shown in his future plans for the team.

“The pace and intensity of defensive play is something that every single guy is going to be held accountable to," Davis said. "We expect to be a physical team. The basic premise is that we want to defend hard and play at you."