We've made so much progress in recent years when it comes to logic and reasoning in sports analysis. In spite of all the corny names, the NHL version of sabermetrics has forced its way into relevancy. It's becoming increasingly rare to hear about goalie wins and team chemistry. High shot percentages are chalked up to small sample size instead of some magical repeatable skill or an ability to be clutch when it really matters. The days of rostering goons to "protect" the star players are almost completely behind us. Isn't it wonderful? I like to think we had something to do with that. You're welcome, loyal Tyutinites(We've gained somewhat of a cult following over the years. They like to be referred to as Tyutinites. I have no idea why. Why DO we call you guys Tyutinites, anyway?).
And then, come playoff time, everything gets thrown out the window.
Like spoiled milk, moldy cheese and that Russian dressing that’s been on the fridge door since the Bush administration, Ken Hitchcock has an expiration date.
Why does it have to be spoiled and moldy to have an expiration date? The fresh bottle of ketchup in your fridge expires too, ya know. That unopened bottle of Billy's Hit it a TON barbecue sauce on the counter? Pretty sure that'll expire before too much longer. And I know there's a dill pickle somewhere in Woodhaven just waiting to be eaten.
His first head-coaching job in the NHL remains his longest tenured one: Seven years with the Dallas Stars, 503 games, with a Stanley Cup and two Western Conference titles.
Then came four years and 254 games with the Philadelphia Flyers before being fired in 2006. Then came four years and 284 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before parting ways in 2010.You've found a pattern! He'll coach St. Louis for three more years and they'll win a cup? Tyler! I have great news!
He’s coached the St. Louis Blues for four seasons and 281 games.
Time’s up.Oh. Nevermind, Tyler. Life sucks.
Look, there’s no denying the effect Hitchcock had on this franchise. His systematic structure produced four straight playoff years – Year 1 had him taking over for Davis Payne after 13 games – with the Blues twice finishing first and twice finishing second.
So that means it's time to get rid of him? You have a weird way of proving a point.
But their six-game bow to the Minnesota Wild is the third straight season that they’re out on their asses in the first round. This year’s loss came at the expense of the best roster, on paper, that GM Doug Armstrong has given his coach.
Oh boy. OK, so here's the thing. It's hard to win in the playoffs. Because you're no longer playing Edmonton and Buffalo. There aren't any cupcake first round match-ups anymore. Every team that qualifies for the playoffs is a good team. Hell...some of the teams that don't qualify are good. Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose? Pretty decent hockey teams. Dallas scored the 2nd most goals in the NHL this year, and they're watching hockey on TV.
In 2012, St. Louis lost to Los Angeles. Ya know, the team that smoked everybody on their way to a Stanley Cup. I'm aware, they were an 8 seed, but it's not like they were undeserving.
In 2013, St. Louis lost to Los Angeles. Once again, can you really blame them for that?
In 2014, St. Louis lost to Chicago. Hey, look. Chicago was pretty good that year.
There's a reason Chicago and Los Angeles have dominated the league the last few years. They're both really awesome teams.
And it wasn’t against the Kings or the Blackhawks. It was against a team they should have beaten.
I'll admit that Minnesota isn't Chicago or LA, and it's possible St. Louis was the favourite to win that series, but you have to realize how unbelievable Minnesota was in the 2nd half of the season. They acquired Devan Dubnyk on January 14th. At that time, they were 18-19-5, nine points out of the 2nd wild card spot. The next 40 games resulted in a 28-9-3 record with a +44 goal differential. That wasn't a hot week. That was half the season.
These aren't your 2014-15 Ottawa Senators. This team was projected to be good all year. Despite just a 7-7 record, NHL.com still had them as the 7th best team in the league, citing bad luck as the only thing holding them back. Well, their bad luck may have continued longer than expected, but boy did it turn around. These things tend to sort themselves out over the course of a full season(Ottawa be damned). That's why people talk about small sample sizes. I thought we were past this?
I'm not saying they're a .735 hockey team, but they certainly weren't a .488 team either. They're probably about halfway between those two figures. Ya know...a pretty good team. St. Louis lost to a pretty good team.
Did you watch the Blues vs. Wild series? Was there anything you saw that would indicate they’re jumping in front of a bullet for their coach?
Is that what you think happened? You think they purposely lost because they wanted to make their coach look bad? You don't think players have enough pride to try their hardest whether they like their coach or not? The Kings did. Twice. There's no way any of those guys like their coach. I mean, look at that guy.
Especially when you consider not a single player on the Blues' playoff roster has ever won a cup before. They knew they had a good team. They knew they had a legitimate shot at a cup run. But yeah, you're probably right. They deliberately booted the entire season in six games so their coach would get fired. Weird how they still won two of them.
The Blues have two players at the heart of their lineup who have been there for years – David Backes and T.J. Oshie. They’re beloved by fans. They’re leaders on the team. They’re vital members of the community. They’re really, really good guys.
But their playoff numbers, and lack success(sic), could be as scrutinized as those of their coach.
Backes had one goal and one assist against the Wild, giving him two goals and four assists in his last 16 playoff games. Oshie … well, let us know when he shows up for the first round.That seems weird. I wonder what changed? Certainly they didn't just forget how to play hockey, right? So something must be different. Something that isn't just bad luck and random variation, because the only cure for bad luck is time and patience. The only thing I can think would be a lack of clutch ability, right? Can't get it done when it really matters, when all eyes are on you? That must be what you're getting at, because I can't think of anything else. But wait. Don't you remember the 2014 Olympics? Oshie sure made a name for himself there, as you yourself even pointed out. No bigger event, I'd say, than when the whole fucking world is watching, as you find yourself repeatedly locked in a one on one skills competition against the goalie of the host nation. Sure seemed pretty cool and calm under that pressure.
Maybe Oshie's 9.4% playoff shot percentage has something to do with it. Ya know, since his worst season has him shooting at a 10.1% clip, and his career is at 11.8%. And as for Backes? His 8.5% playoff shot percentage is hardly in line with his 12.5% career percentage.
If you believe the core is the problem, then you take a melon baller and scoop out these two this summer. They both have enormous value. Maybe it’s just not going to happen in St. Louis.
Or maybe it will, with a new voice behind the bench.Or, maybe it will with the same coach! Who knows?
The idea of “message fatigue” is a very valid thing in the NHL. How many times have you seen a gruff coach replaced by a players’ guy, or vice versa?
Yes, but how often does it work? My guess is about half the time. For every fairy tale ending(the Kings with Sutter, the Penguins with Bylsma, the Blackhawks with Quenneville) there's a disaster(the Canucks with Tortorella, the Capitals with Hunter, the Capitals with Oates). Just because this is something teams often do doesn't make it a cure-all. And did you notice anything about those teams? They're all young, exciting teams that were on the cusp of being great. You can say a coaching change was the answer, I'll just say it was an inevitability, and we can agree to disagree.
Look, it’s not an easy decision to move off Hitchcock. Ask the Penguins what it’s like to jettison a successful coach for the sin of playoff underachievement.
See? You already knew that. Why did you write this article?
The funny thing about that is Bylsma got canned for not having success in the playoffs, a few years after he got praised for his success in the playoffs. Message fatigue? Maybe. Luck? Definitely. There are sixteen teams in the playoffs every year. All things equal, that means each playoff team has a 6.25% chance of winning the Stanley Cup. All things aren't equal, I understand, but they're not different enough to drastically sway odds in one direction or another. This is just the reality of things. We live in an era of parity. We wanted this. This is the reason we implemented a salary cap. Teams don't just go through the playoffs wiping people away year after year anymore.
Hitchcock has no room to grow. This is the ceiling for himself and the Blues. Jake Allen could have been Jacques Plante in this series and it doesn’t change the fact that, yet again, this group under Hitchcock scored four goals in their four losses.
I don't know if you understand this, but that's how hockey works. Teams scored 2.73 goals per game this year. For every winner there's a loser. If teams are averaging under three goals per game it stands to reason that the losing team of most games didn't have a lot of goals.
Take out the six-goal explosion in Game 4, and the Blues scored eight goals in five games.
Yeah, but take out the anemic one goal performances, and the Blues scored ten goals in two games. Coach Yeo had no room to grow in those games! Dubnyk could have been Jacques Plante and it didn't change the fact that Minnesota only scored two goals in their two losses.
You can't just remove data from an already small sample just to prove a point. Otherwise you end up sounding like an idiot like I just did. St. Louis scored 14 goals in six playoff games, 2.33 goals per game. Minnesota's elite shot prevention style of play held opponents to 2.45 goals per game this season. Not too far off, really.
So once again, it’s goaltending and a lack of goal scoring. Same crap, different year, and something’s gotta change.
We imagine it’ll be behind the bench before it’s anything substantial from the roster Armstrong’s built.Look. I know it's a little late for a disclaimer, but I'm just gonna throw it out there. I don't know things. I'm just a dude who watches a lot of hockey. I read about it occasionally and I do my best to analyze what I learn. I have no idea what goes on inside a locker room. I don't know what happens during practices and in film rooms. These things are kept from us. All of us. One of the biggest things we've yet to accurately analyze are the effects of coaching. But don't you think players at the NHL level have had enough coaching? They've had so many different coaches over their many years through the ranks, there can't really be too much more for them to learn. There aren't any brand new systems nobody else has thought about. I just see it as such a cop out to switch coaches when things don't go as planned. People are so quick to overreact, so in order to appease the fans they show the coach the door. Problem solved, apparently.
Hitchcock will be fine. The Maple Leafs, Sharks and Flyers are three teams that might throw money at him if he's available. And why not: The next expiration date is in 2019...
Cute. But what was that you were just saying about same crap, different year?