The Blues have made a tradition of firing coaches over the past few years. In 2004 the Blues were riding goalie Brent Johnson into the ground as they were risking their first spring of being outside of the playoff picture in 24 years. Although more than half of the teams’ payroll was invested in an underachieving top power play unit (Demitra, Tkachuk, Weight, MacInnis, and Pronger) and the majority of the rest of the roster was made up of AHLers (Eric Nicklaus anyone?), coach Joel Quenneville got the short haircut and was fired in February 2004 with 21 games left on the schedule.
Enter Mike Kitchen. Kitchen coached the Blues into the playoffs, through their first round playoff loss to the Sharks that spring, through the dismal 2005-2006 season following the lockout in which the Blues ended up with the first overall pick (Erik Johnson), and 28 games into the 2006-2007 season before he was fired after an embarrassing loss to Detoit on Brett Hull night. His 7-17 record may have been more to blame than the thud against Detroit.
Enter Andy Murray. Murray was a no-nonsense hard-nosed North American style coach that emphasized airtight defense and checking. He went on to lead the Blues to a miraculous run to the playoffs for the first time in several years as the Blues were swept by the Canucks in the opening round. After a promising sweep of the hated Redwings in Stockholm to start the season, the team never found it’s rhythm and he was fired following the announcement of the team USA 2010 Olympic roster at the Winter Classic at Fenway Park. One of the biggest knocks on Murray was that he over prepared everyone. Players were constantly having to skate back to the bench for shift changes (sometimes 20-30 second shifts) in order to get the match ups he wanted. Like Tony LaRussa, Murray knew what he wanted for every imaginable kind of situation and did his best to execute. Unlike Tony LaRussa, Murray does not have any championships on his resume nor the decades of experience. With a roster full of young up and coming players, the Blues felt that having a hard nosed old school of coach wasn’t the best route to take.
Enter Davis Payne. He did the best with what he had, but it wasn’t enough to reach the playoffs that year. The following season (2010-2011) was marred with the worst rash of injuries I’ve ever seen any team suffer for a season. The Blues top powerplay unit was sidelined for over half of the season and once again, the team floundered and did not make the playoffs. Payne was hardly to blame. As this season skid to a 6-7 start, Blues GM Doug Armstrong relieved Payne of his duties on Sunday. Enter Ken Hitchcock. More on him later in the week.
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Written by Patrick McLellan