St. Louis Blues: Ken Hitchcock’s Firing Sad On All Levels

The St. Louis Blues made a bold, but perhaps necessary move by removing Ken Hitchcock from his position. However, the entire thing stinks a bit, whether you support it or not.

The St. Louis Blues were given little choice after another disappointing loss to Winnipeg earlier this week. They had to make some sort of change and that chance was in the coaching ranks.

So, out goes Ken Hitchcock and in comes Mike Yeo. I’ve already covered that I’m a bit skeptical of Yeo being the next head coach.

Whether he had an offseason or not, he’s not that dissimilar from Hitchcock in how demanding he is, so the results being different is debatable. That is a topic, as mentioned, already covered and something to discuss further down the line – hopefully after a playoff run and during the offseason.

Right now the focus is on the Blues, their former coach and the fans. Just about everything about this current situation has a taint to it, which is very disappointing on many levels.

Anytime there is a change in the team it brings a mixture of excitement and trepidation. People on both sides are confident they know what will happen, when really none of us can actually know. Even Doug Armstrong can’t fully know how this will play out.

Unfortunately for Armstrong, he was given little other alternative. Many, myself included, felt he waited more than long enough before making a change. While a coaching change might not have been what we all envisioned, it is what happened and hopefully something that will spark the team at least a little.

It’s all the stuff surrounding the firing that is a bit nauseating though. I was a Hitchcock supporter, so let that be known, but I am fine with the firing in and of itself. However, the reaction and the reaction to some reaction is very disappointing.

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The Players

Listening to the radio on the day of the dismissal, Jeremy Rutherford, the team’s beat writer, was on a talk show discussing the move. I didn’t necessarily agree with all the points he made, especially since he’s jumped on the goaltender bashing bandwagon a bit, but the part that irked me the most was his description of the locker room.

Rutherford said that while the players were all saying the right things in their sound bites, you could tell there was some relief in the team. He continued that the players did have a lot of mixed feelings about the coaching dynamic when their next boss was already there and they were supposed to listen to Hitch still.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint a picture that there was champagne and loud music playing to celebrate. These guys are professionals and probably don’t feel good that they got someone fired. However, the fact they came across as almost wanting this makes me not want to pull for them a little bit.

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Nov 9, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) controls the puck along the boards during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

The team – well, several members – were apparently complaining about Hitchcock for at least a couple seasons. The team did not and should not have made a move since they were winning. The fact the team could win under a coach they did not get along with points to both the talent of the players and the reliability of the coach’s system.

Still, it seems to make sense then that the team’s performance went south when presented with a different option than Hichcock. I don’t want to believe anyone was tanking it or not giving their all. It does seem too convenient that the team had their next coach right there and they could not summon the consistent game to see the current one out properly.

I don’t like thinking these things. I don’t think anyone on the Blues had ill motives in their hearts, but subconsciously it had to have an effect and that bothers me.

If this team suddenly turns around and gets themselves back into the Central Division top three or even top two, I might actually have a problem with it. It’s understandable that coaches wear out their welcome, but why could you not summon the same effort if it can be there under a new coach? I guess I just don’t see how the man behind the bench can affect a team that negatively when he’s done so much in the game.

The Coach

That’s another sad thing, that he was so close to achieving greater things. I know many won’t share my sentiments, but Hitchcock was a great coach whether you liked him or not.

The guy won a Stanley Cup and there are only so many coaches in the game that can say that. He’s got the best winning percentage of any Blues coach and trails only Joel Quenneville in team wins.

Hitchcock is the fourth winningest coach in league history. That doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s an extremely small note in this whole ordeal, but Hitchcock was one win away from tying his idol Al Arbour. A couple more wins this year and he would have been third on the all-time list.

People can whine all they want about playoff success and whatever, but he got the job done in plenty of aspects. The list is very long of guys who did not win in the playoffs with the Blues and Quenneville is on that list. There are plenty of people that would like to have him back right now.

The Fans

As someone in their 30’s, I’ve seen the internet grow and transform. As such, I’ve also seen it be taken over by trolls.

That said, I know there are plenty of people who weren’t jumping for joy about the coaching change. The fact there are as many as there are makes me sad though.

I get it. You didn’t like him and wanted him gone. Fair enough, but the stuff people would say on social media or call in shows is just ridiculous.

The man is a human being trying to do a job. He did a good job of it and just because it was a little different than how we would have gone about it, we know better than a future Hall of Famer? Anyone could coach this team better?

I try my best not to get personal here, but I have to think many of these people have either not ever been fired or not cared enough about their work to care if they were. I have been fired and it is one of the worst feelings around.

To have someone sit you down and tell you that they think someone can do it better or you aren’t doing enough is a kick to the gut. People, such as Armstrong, can say you are hired to be fired in pro sports but there is far too much happiness gained by some fans when it does happen.

Nobody is going to work every day thinking to themselves, “hmm, how can I make this team worse today?” It is fine to think the Blues will be better off with fresh ideas and a different voice.  Some take it far too personally.

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Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong smiles as he speaks with media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Then others took it a different route. They made fun of Doug Armstrong crying. I get that in the internet age, memes are all the rage.

Heck, I overuse memes during games because I think they are funny. Maybe one day I’ll look back and think this is funny, but Armstrong was legitimately hurt that he had let his friend down and that Hitchcock had to pay the price.

With all this talk of peace and equality and brotherhood going around, I’d think we might applaud that kind of emotional honesty. But, this is the internet, so it is what it is.

Looking Forward

Whether we agree with the move or not, it’s reality. We must now hope that it was the right one.

I want Mike Yeo to succeed. Not to be political, but it is similar to the Donald Trump situation.

Whether you voted for him or not, he is the president.  We should all want him to do the best job possible for the sake of the country. Similarly, we should all want Yeo to succeed now for the sake of the franchise. Rooting against either is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

It’s been a rough time this season. While I will have mixed feelings about any potential turnaround in the team’s play, I still want them to win. It has become hard to get enjoyment out of sitting down and watching Blues hockey lately.  I hope that can at least return.

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