There seems to be a new trend in the NHL, going back to the midpoint of the 2007-2008 season: promote your AHL affiliate's coach. The Capitals promoted Bruce Boudreau, and went from the basement of the East to the playoffs. The Atlanta Thrashers realized that having Don Waddell coach was probably not the best plan, so up came John Anderson. The Penguins canned Michel Therrien during a horribly uninspired stretch last year that if it continued would knock the Pens out of contention for the playoffs. They move up Dan Bylsma, and they win the Stanley Cup.
Now it's Bylsma's good friend Davis Payne's chance to shine as an NHL coach. How is he doing, and more importantly, will he be doing it next season?Everyone knows the situation that Andy Murray left under - 12th place in the Western Conference with a 17-17-6 record overall and an atrocious home record. Players were tuning him out left and right. It was apparent that the shelf life of the "Andy Murray Whip-a-Team-Into-Shape" strategy had expired like a 20 year old Twinkie. The Blues finally let the former Jack Adams award winner walk in January, and promoted Davis Payne from the Rivermen to take the helm behind the bench. The difference has been marked.
The Blues have only scored 1 goal 4 times in the time that Bylsma has been coach. The home record has improved to 17-18-5 . And, most importantly, under Payne their overall record is 22-14-3.
There are still some issues to be had: discipline for the younger Blues, especially off-ice. Maintaining a lead through three periods would be swell. But do the improvements warrant a contract for the young coach, and do we overlook the shortcomings? If the Blues had Payne for the entire season, would their record be playoff-worthy?
A lot of questions are either answered by the hindsight of an armchair coach, or with a magic 8 ball. But, based on what you have seen thus far, do we keep the Bylsma doppelganger around, or do we go with someone more seasoned next season? Who will the players respond to more?
Hildymac's daily whinings about the Blues' maddening playoff race can be found, as always, at Thrashing the Blues. Pardon the profanity if the Thrashers lose tonight, or the Avalanche win. Oh, who am I kidding? You guys probably won't even notice the profanity, will you?