Ken Hitchcock is out of answers. After at least four losses the past month, Hitch has told the media after the game that the team lacked this or didn't show enough of that. He's mostly looked clueless. Why would he not? In his fourth season as St. Louis Blues coach, what the hell is he going to do? Reinvent the wheel or become a different kind of hockey coach? He is who he is and apparently the players either can't master his system, aren't good enough to try or don't like it.
Maybe they just aren't a great group of players. Unworthy of winning when it counts. Hitchcock does deserve to go. He has won a single playoff series(first year with St. Louis) in the past 12 years. When a coach runs out of answers and doesn't even know the upcoming terrain that well anymore, it's time to move on. Retirement or just a new team with new faces and surroundings. However, Hitch shouldn't go alone. General Manager Doug Armstrong deserves to go with him.
Why not? Armstrong has failed at his job too. The gamble of acquiring Ryan Miller blew up in his face because he realized Miller can't play right wing or create genuine scoring chances in the offensive zone during the playoffs. Armie traded T.J. Oshie because the kid basically told Hitch's system to go fuck itself. He gave Patrik Berglund a contract that he could never live up or be removed properly via trade. He assembled this current group of players and kept them around with little to no success. Yeah, he brought in the hometown kid Paul Stastny, who seems to only play extremely well if he is surrounded by a certain player or two or even sees the top line(he's only making nearly 7 million dollars). 63 points in 100 games. Maybe that's Hitch's usage or his system, but maybe Armie deserves as much blame as the head coach.
If we are going to finger through Hitch's lack of playoff success, how about Doug Armstrong? The Blues missed the playoffs in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Since 2010, the Blues have won a total of 10 playoff game in four visits to the postseason. One playoff series win. The roster that Armie has put together has accomplished little folks. Big traded for goaltenders Jaro Halak and Miller have fizzled, and now the #1 goaltender makes less than a million bucks while the backup logs 2.5 million to play once every 10 days. The Stastny deal withstanding(a deal that hasn't produced huge dividends yet), what has Armstrong done to deserve his job and remain off the hot seat.
Imagine this. In the offseason, what if Armie was able to bring in Dan Bylsma, Mike Babcock or Todd McClellan? Does he still trade Oshie, a talented player who maybe needed a new coach who was more offensive minded to take full advantage of his skill set? Armie's failure this past offseason to change this team offensively(Stastny hasn't logged more than 60 points since 2009-10) or find a new coach leaves him as expendable as Hitchcock. This is his team and the lack of results fall on the GM's shoulders as much as they do the head coach's. After all, Hitch is only here on a one year ride. These aren't his kids. He is basically Armie's babysitter.
I'm sorry but I don't think Kirk Muller adds anything that Hitch hasn't already practiced on the ice. With no offense to Muller and Brad Shaw, their strategies and methods can't stretch too far from Hitch's, can they? What will change? There is ZERO outside help at the moment. Sure, Armie can make one last hurrah of a deal and trade for Steven Stamkos, which would be a pure rental because Tom Stillman and the team have zero space for a 10 million dollar player. What other player out there is affordable and effective enough to acquire and CAN THEY produce in Hitch or Muller's system? Lots of hypotheticals in that room. Too many.
The truth is Hitch isn't going anywhere. Neither is Armie. With the Blues sitting in 3rd place(by a point over Chicago) in the Western Conference, their jobs are safe. The windows haven't gotten that dirty yet. Windex is still working. Unless the Blues tank this upcoming road trip to Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles, Hitch isn't going anywhere. The options are scarce and the potential reward doesn't hold up. That is unless his assistant coach has a worthwhile offensive scheme he has been hiding from his superior.
I'll admit writing these articles gets tiring. They must be a thrill to read. "The 805th way to make the Blues failure sound captivating" doesn't sell many newspapers. All of us here at GT are running out of answers. Paper honcho Brad Lee's letter from the editor on December 26th was solid. Hildy's take today was a good statement. Why does it seem like we are firing our best bullets in the first week of January? The Blues, ladies and gents, are a pack of assholes. They tease and they take away every year.
Covering this team is like staring at a corpse in a room where the lightbulb is changed daily. Different shade. Same waste of space. When will this change? The 2014-15 team seemed strong as ever and scored more goals in the last week of the season than they did in the first round of the playoffs. What makes you think this team will do any better?
I am here to state that if Hitch goes, so should Armstrong. If you want to clean the docket correctly, the room needs to be cleared. Fire the GM and the coach. Clean house. Start over. New recruiter and strategist. The gambler and the thief.
That may be the one true fix for this team. Don't worry. It won't happen anytime soon.