Today, we now know that the Blues are going to stick with what has worked during the regular season. Ken Hitchcock, Brad Shaw, Ray Bennett, Kirk Muller, and Jim Corsi will all return to the team. This is the coaching staff that has won two Central Division titles and has reached 50 wins twice (and came close in their first incomplete season together, 2011-2012).
This is also the same staff that has made it past the first round of the playoffs once, and never won a second round game.
Blues owner Tom Stillman said that he would evaluate the team after this year's post-season disappointment. In his interview with Chris Kerber, he mentions being careful and not making any knee-jerk decisions, and taking a "rational, analytical look" at the current situation. He acknowledges that fans wanted change, but after covering all of the options, he felt that what the team has is what is best for them, coaching wise. The Blues do, historically speaking, have "one of the best coaches in the game."
During the regular season, that may be true. Ken Hitchcock has a stellar coaching record, and is the fourth-winningest coach of all time.
During the playoffs, however, there has been limited success with the Blues. Hitchcock seems to place this on the players.
"I want to coach to win and I couldn’t find a better spot than to show up right here and coach this hockey club," Hitchcock said. "This is a really good team trying to become a great team. I think I have the tools and the expertise to help them along the way."
He views himself as a teacher trying to get his students over the hump. He and his students, over the years, have run smack dab into that hump repeatedly in the playoffs. As friend of GT Art Lippo pointed out on Twitter:
@scelrod13 It's baffling. The talent level between the Hitchcock rosters and the Payne / Murray rosters aren't even close— Art Lippo (@ArtLippo) May 26, 2015
This roster has gotten better from pre-Hitchcock through Hitchcock to now; so much so that pointing at "THE COOOOOORE!" and yelling at them doesn't explain their poor post-season performance. Why does a noted playoff performer like Paul "stifling atmosphere" Stastny disappear? Why does the team rely on just Vladimir Tarasenko for playoff goals? Why do they collectively go from from a regular season force to a befuddled playoff team to a team that doesn't look like they care to be on the ice?
This is not all David Backes (who totally has "no problem" with Hitch coming back), T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Jay Bouwmeester, and the goaltenders' fault. Heck, Berglund actually picked up his performance during the playoffs. Bouwmeester wasn't the same since his injury earlier in the season. Oshie and Backes have never performed in the playoffs. Goaltenders don't score goals.
Highly paid professional athletes don't work their asses off all season long to get home ice in the playoffs just to shrug their shoulders and quit.
I'm not going to go on about the culture of the team, because I'm not in the locker room and I do not know what the players think or feel about any situation that they find themselves in. Hitchcock's press conference, however, gave a good blow at the culture of the front office.
Of his relationship w/ Hitch, Army said: "I don't want to say it's like a marriage but it's like a marriage." Hitch joked: "It's a bad one."— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 26, 2015
Four years of decreasing outcomes as the roster has improved. The team has gone from winning a first round series in five games to blowing two game leads twice to difficult teams to play against, and then to plodding through a first round loss to an inferior opponent.
This quote from Hitchcock is true. Championship teams push back.
Why don't the Blues? Perhaps a lack of accountability for mistakes at the top has trickled down to the players. There don't seem to be many consequences for slippage. Consequences and change may come this off-season, but it won't come to those responsible for the big decisions.
Athletes aren't exactly the "little guy," but in this situation, they're the metaphorical one. They'll be the ones to pay the price this off-season.