As THN’s Ken Campbell reported yesterday, Ken Hitchcock will be back behind the St. Louis bench next season on a one-year deal.
The Blues announced Tuesday afternoon that they have re-signed Hitchcock to a one-year contract, keeping him a part of the club for at least the 2015-16 season. There’s little doubt, however, that he’s under immense pressure to show he can lead his team to playoff success. The 63-year-old coach has spent the past four seasons in the Gateway City but has failed to help the Blues advance past the first round of the post-season in each of the past three campaigns.
There was some question whether or not Hitchcock would be back at all, however.
During Mike Babcock’s search for his next gig, and before he landed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was reported that Babcock interviewed with the Blues about the possibility of taking over as their coach for next season. There weren’t many other names thrown around regarding the potential coaching spot in St. Louis, which made it seem all the more certain if the Blues were out on Babcock then it would be all-in on Hitchcock for one more year. So when nothing came of Babcock to the Blues – St. Louis ended up being one of the first teams out of the running, by all accounts – it made things clear that it’s Hitchcock’s job, but that his position is very much on the line.
Under Hitchcock, the Blues have had the best regular season record of any team in the league at 175-79-27 and he has quickly become the second-winningest coach in franchise history. In 2011-12, Hitchcock was named the Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year as the Blues won the Central Division. However, the lack of playoff success has been alarming to those in St. Louis.
A Stanley Cup winner with the Dallas Stars in 1998-99 and Western Conference champion in 1999-00, Hitchcock has had post-season success previously, but has only watched his teams advance past the first-round of the playoffs four times in his last nine appearances. Only once since his time in Dallas, in 2003-04 with the Philadelphia Flyers, has his team made it to the conference final.
In 2015-16, short of at least qualifying for the playoffs, it won’t matter what the Blues do in the regular season. If they finish first in the NHL, that’s great. If they finish in a wild-card spot and squeak in, that’ll work, too. When the post-season rolls around, though, if Hitchcock can’t get his group over the hump and into the second round, this one-year extension will likely be his last in St. Louis.