St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong announced on Wednesday that the club has extended Ken Hitchcock through the 2013-14 season. The extension comes with an option for 2014-15 season.
“Obviously as an organization we’re very excited to have Ken on board through next season," said Armstrong. "We have a joint agreement that we will decide year by year after that to keep moving ahead. I really think where we are at as an organization that having Ken on-board for another two years, minimum, is very important."
“Ken did a fabulous job when he came in here obviously recognized as the coach of the year and we’re really excited to move forward with him. Ken came in and immediately steadied our group and was able to get each one of our players to elevate their game," said Doug Armstrong. "He still has the passion and drive to be a Head Coach in this League and is committed to taking this team to the next level."
Hitchcock became the Blues head coach on November 6 when he replaced former head coach Davis Payne. Before Hitchcock took over in November, the Blues had a record of 6-7-0 (12 points), but Hitchcock was able to come into the Blues organization, implement his strategy and style of play, and led the Blues to their second best season in franchise history. The Blues rose quickly and consistently under Hitchcock and finished the season with a 49-22-11 record (109 points), and advanced past the quarterfinals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002. Hitchcock polished off the year by winning his first Jack Adams trophy for coach of the year.
Hitchcock, the 24th coach in franchise history, is also one of the most respected coaches in hockey. He has coached in 1,110 NHL games, which is 13th most all-time, with four different organizations, and is 11th all-time in wins (576). Hitchcock, a 15-year NHL coach, does not know how much longer he will have the energy necessary to coach, but for now he is proud to remain head coach of the Blues, a team he feels is unsatisfied.
"I feel like we are putting together a quality program here," said Ken Hitchcock. "We had a good year finishing where we did in the standings (tied for second in NHL with 109 points) but this club is not satisfied with our ending and firmly believes we have great things to come."
“What’s exciting for us right now is: We don’t have to make a lot of changes; there aren’t a lot of gaping holes in our hockey club. We are in a different boat than a lot of other teams. That’s what has the coaching staff excited.”
“For me, I’m grateful that there’s an extension and after the extension’s over I think I just felt that if I don’t have the energy at the end of this current term I don’t want to do the job. I know the energy and the discipline it takes to do the work and I don’t think it’s fair to anybody for me to do it any further if I don’t have the necessary energy to do it so I’m happy with the way it works and I’m sure we’ll find a way to make it work provided that all of us think that I have that necessary energy. I don’t feel from my standpoint that it’s as important as the working relationship I have with everybody but I know the necessary demands that this position has and I don’t want to do it if I don’t have that energy.”
General manager Doug Armstrong is confident that Hitchcock will have the energy for at least the next two years, but says if 'Hitch' is unable to coach past that time there are other options for Hitchcock within the organization.
“Ultimately (his energy) is going to dwindle. Ken will know well before anyone in the organization and that’s the comfort level we have working with Ken. He is honest to a fault. I feel Ken is going to be a member of this organization through this contract, and then if the energy is not there to coach, I have talked to him about staying on-board (in another capacity). One thing he will never lose is his passion for hockey. He is going to be a really big part of this organization for the next two years because he has so much knowledge, not only to the players, but to myself, the senior management and minor league coaches, he is knowledgeable in every way.”
Hitchcock does have a Stanley Cup on his resume which he won in the 1998-99 season with the Dallas Stars. His team had 114 points that season, but he feels the Blues remind him of that team which is part of the reason he feels comfortable sticking around for the remainder of his career.
"I have to feel comfortable with the people I'm working with. Regardless of what happens in the next few years I want to stick around for a long time. This is it for me, this is my last stop and I want this to be a successful franchise for the next 10-15 years. I want to be a part of it even if I'm not coaching. I want the franchise to be successful because the people I'm working with I admire and like a lot. We are going to have ups and downs, good times and bad. It really feels like it did back in Dallas.
General Manager Doug Armstrong is signed through next season, but keeping Ken Hitchcock on-board hints that Armstrong could be extended in the near future, possibly even later this week. As Jeremy Rutherford pointed out, the Blues are sending a message to everyone around the league that they now have stability under new owner Tom Stillman, and there's no reason to doubt that many bright days lie ahead for the Blues organization.