St. Louis Blues hire Ken Hitchcock

The St. Louis Blues juggled pieces of their lineup in the offseason in an attempt to get the right pieces in place and get back into the playoff picture. However, after a slow start this season where the Blues have amassed a meager six wins in 13 games and are second-to-last in the Western Conference, the team decided that their shakeup needed to continue and expand.

The team announced today that head coach Davis Payne was fired from the organization and Ken Hitchcock would immediately be brought in to replace him. The 40-year-old Payne was brought in as head coach in January 2010 and only coached the team for one full season in 2010-11.

“It’s shocking and it’s disappointing, but in the end, you’re responsible for all the areas of your hockey team,” Payne said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There were pieces that weren’t firing on all cylinders and it’s under my umbrella of responsibility.”

The Blues had high expectations this season after adding veterans Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol to the lineup. While Arnott has delivered so far with eight points in 13 games, other Blues members are off to slow starts. Goalie Jaroslav Halak has just one win in seven starts for the Blues and forward Chris Stewart, who posted 23 points in 26 games after a mid-season trade last year, has just three in 13 games so far this season.

“I’ve had great success in working with top guys and getting them to play,” Hitchcock said in his press conference this afternoon. “I think there’s potential with a lot of guys to be top players here.”

Hitchcock last coached in the NHL for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was let go by the organization in February 2010. This will be Hitchcock’s fourth NHL team after previously coaching the Blue Jackets, Flyers and Dallas Stars, who he coached to a Stanley Cup victory in 1998-99.

“I want us to be proud of the way we play the game,” Hitchcock said. “I think at the end of the day, I want people in St. Louis to say, ‘Man, that team plays the right way.’”

Hitchcock practiced with the team this afternoon. His first game behind the bench will be tomorrow when the Blues host the Blackhawks.

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