Ken Hitchcock’s run as head coach of the St. Louis Blues will be one remembered for his abrasive style, memorable quotes and ultimately the team’s inability to put all the pieces together despite a significant playoff run. He, like nearly every coach around the league before him, exited his team on a sour note, remembered more for his failures than for his accomplishments.
Shortly before his dismissal, it was widely assumed that Hitchcock had lost the respect of the room and that his message was falling on deaf ears. In a recent interview with STLToday, Hitchcock addressed that idea and revealed he thinks that’s just the easy way of explaining what transpired.
“Everybody says that and it’s the easy way out. The easiest thing to say is the message got stale. It’s way deeper than that. It’s the accumulation of a lot of things that go on. Working in a team sport is like working in a family business. There’s a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of intensity, there’s a lot of joy, there’s a lot of disappointment and how you work through those areas has a lot to do with how long you last.”
Saying that Hitchcock’s message got stale is the abbreviated, summarized version of what was a much larger story. It may be doing the truth a disservice by simplifying things to that level.
The Blues took some genuinely big steps forward under Hitchcock. They had their deepest playoff run in over a decade and fell just a bit short of a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Coming that close and once again falling short might have been the last straw when it came to players listening to his message. Hitchcock’s statement is fairly vague, but one could imply that he wasn’t able to bring everyone together following that playoff loss which resulted in an ugly start to 2016-17.
Ultimately, Hitchcock’s tenure came to an end, but that’s the same story seen around the league as teams change out coaches following periods of disappointment. It’s easy to remember how things ended, but Hitchcock’s stint with the Blues should be commended as it contained far more positives than negatives.