Former interim head coach of the Blues, Davis Payne, has officially been hired by the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings as assistant head coach under head coach Darryl Sutter.
Payne took over as interim head coach of the Blues during the 2009-10 season, replacing Andy Murray. The Blues posted a record of 23-15-4 under Payne that season, and finished fourth in the Central Division. Payne remained the head coach for the entire 2010-11 season and led the Blues to a record of 38-33-11 and once again the Blues finished fourth in their division.
Management's plan was to keep Payne on board as the head coach for the 2011-12 season , but after posting a 6-7 record 13 games into the season, Payne was relieved of his coaching duties and replaced by Ken Hitchcock.
Payne spent time as a scout for the Blues after his position as head coach was terminated, but no one ever really doubted he would return in a bigger role at some point in his career.
Payne has experience behind the bench at the American Hockey League (AHL), East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and National Hockey League (NHL) levels, despite being only 41 years old. His resume includes eight seasons as a professional hockey player at the NHL, IHL, and ECHL levels, where he played as a winger. He spent 22 NHL games with the Boston Bruins accumulating one point (an assist).
Along with a having deep knowledge of Western Conference hockey teams, Payne will have the opportunity to grow under the experience of Darryl Sutter. Payne hopes to return as an NHL coach down the road so this is a good first step for him.
"Davis was clearly the guy at the top of our list,” said Kings' head coach Darryl Sutter in a statement posted on the Kings' website. “We wanted somebody with NHL head coaching experience, and preferably a younger guy who communicates well with players and fits in well with our staff. We’re excited about having him.”
Payne is a smart, down-to-earth guy who knows what it takes to win, but had a bit of trouble implementing his system in St. Louis in a way that the players would respond to. Payne lacks NHL experience which is why an assistant coaching job is ideal for him at this stage of his career.
Many more challenges await Payne as he continues his trek to becoming a head coach, but anyone will tell you that he certainly has a bright future ahead of him.