Less than one year removed from making the Western Conference Finals, St. Louis Blues has fired head coach Ken Hitchcock, who has been with them since 2011 and sits at fourth all-time in wins.
Hitchcock brought a team concept to St. Louis and he turned the franchise into a regular Stanley Cup playoff club. This was to be Hitchcock’s final season no matter the outcome, with former Minnesota head man Mike Yeo already on the bench as associate head coach, poised to take over next year, in what seemed to be a smooth transition.
However, something changed and St. Louis started 24-26 SU (24-21-5) and its supporters were -8.1 units when making NHL picks. One might think the Blues would have jettisoned Hitchcock at the All-Star break, but they waited one more game and evidently an ugly 5-3 home loss to wobbly Winnipeg was more than the front office could take.
So what happened? Last year St. Louis was one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. This year they are ranked 28th in goals allowed at 3.1 per contest. The goalie tandem of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton has struggled mightily. In save percentage, Allen ranks 44th and Hutton at 45th out of the 47 goaltenders who meet the minimum requirements for playing. There horrific play is made worse by the fact they have faced the fifth-fewest shots on goal at 27.6 per game.
Offensively, the Blues are better than a year ago, presently scoring 2.80 goals a game compared to 2.67 last year. Nonetheless, when you have to score four goals a game to win, unless you are Pittsburgh, that is a tall order.
With St. Louis just out of the playoff picture with a little over 30 games to play, the players have to want it more. Maybe the lame duck coach was a distraction and players felt it sent a mixed message. No matter, Yeo is the head coach now and if you will be following the NHL odds on the Blues going forward, will this team care enough to upgrade their play or will the front office make a trade for goaltender who is not necessarily playing very good elsewhere?
Currently, betting St. Louis could give you the blues unless they turn it around.
Doug Upstone wrote this for www.sportsbookreview.com