Ken Hitchcock will be back behind the St. Louis Blues’ bench in 2016-17, and, unlike last off-season, the Blues extending Hitchcock’s contract didn’t take much deliberation.
The summer before the 2015-16 season, there was uncertainty surrounding Hitchcock’s future. He was on the hot seat after the Blues flamed out of the post-season in the first round for the third-straight season, St. Louis had spoken with Mike Babcock about potentially stepping in behind the bench and there was belief the Blues could choose to switch things up on their coaching staff. Instead, they stuck by Hitchcock, giving him one more year to prove he could get the job done.
That was the right decision for the Blues then, and keeping Hitchcock around for one more season is the right move now by Blues GM Doug Armstrong. Read more
PITTSBURGH – It’s become fairly commonplace for San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to be staring into the eyes of the best players in the world. And after getting a steady diet of Vladimir Tarasenko in the Western Conference final, Vlasic is preparing to renew a battle with Sidney Crosby that dates back more than a decade to their days in the Quebec League.
When the puck drops for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final tonight, expect to see an awful lot of Vlasic on the ice at the same time as Crosby. It will be more difficult for the Sharks to get the matchups they want in the first two games, but not impossible. And Vlasic is ready to see a lot of No. 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the next couple of weeks.
Having come up short in their quest to reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 46 years, the St. Louis Blues face a possible off-season of change.
ESPN.com’s Craig Custance believes the Blues should re-sign coach Ken Hitchcock to another one-year contract. He cites how Hitchcock guided the club to their first Western Conference final in 15 years and how they also overcame injuries to key players during the regular season.
TSN’s Darren Dreger, however, speculates Hitchcock’s tenure in St. Louis could be coming to an end. He believes certain coaches, such as Hitchcock, have a shelf life, suggesting he may have squeezed all he could out of the Blues players.
Today’s announcement of the Czech Republic World Cup roster made official what we had already known: Jaromir Jagr would not be suiting up for the national squad. And hey, that’s fair – the man is an icon and he needs some rest as he continues a marvelous NHL career. So let’s turn to the players who will be playing in Toronto this summer.
There’s one thing you have to keep in mind when it comes to this public relations debacle surrounding the cancellation of tonight’s viewing party in Tampa for Game 7 between the Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. And that is that the NHL is not the bad guy here. The league is basically taking a bullet for its broadcast partner, NBC Sports.
Think about it. Why would the league want to deter thousands of people from assembling in one place to celebrate their team’s playoff run and create a sense of community among fans that no amount of money can buy, unless it was being forced to do so? The truth is, the NHL would love it, absolutely love it, if every team in the playoffs held public gatherings for each one of their playoff games. It creates a buzz around the team and the product that is immeasurable. The days of Bill Wirtz not putting the Chicago Blackhawks home games on television passed a long time ago.
It might not feel like it today, tomorrow or even one year from now, but the St. Louis Blues’ 2015-16 campaign was a successful one in many ways.
Few teams faced the pressure over the past season that the Blues did. After three consecutive first-round playoff exits, 2015-16 was seen as this group’s last shot at making a deep post-season run. Coach Ken Hitchcock entered the campaign on the hot seat, the vast majority of the roster was forced to miss time at one point or another with injury and when St. Louis fought through the adversity to lock up the second seed in the Central Division, they were paired up against the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blues managed to get by the Blackhawks, though, before downing the top-seeded Dallas Stars and earning a berth in the Western Conference final. But in the conference final the Blues fell flat.
They were shutout in two consecutive games, and when it came to a potentially series-deciding Game 6, it took St. Louis nearly 52 minutes to find the back of the net. So even with the successes the Blues did have, they still failed to reach their goal and flamed out at the worst possible time. That’s all but certain to mean changes are coming for the Blues this off-season. Read more
David Backes has captained the St. Louis Blues through three consecutive first-round playoff exits, and as the team’s captain he no doubt felt as though he was in part responsible for the team’s shortcomings. But this season, St. Louis made a playoff breakthrough, first with a series win over the Chicago Blackhawks and then getting by the Dallas Stars in the second round.
The Blues’ run towards a potential Stanley Cup final, which was the deepest they had been since the 2000-01 playoffs, ended Wednesday night with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And post-game, Backes, who has potentially played his final game in St. Louis, got choked up talking about the commitment to each other that this Blues team had.
It was especially difficult for Backes to get through a story about Game 5. Backes had watched from the bench for most of Game 4 after suffering an unspecified injury, but the Blues captain was back in the lineup and played 16-plus minutes in Game 5 thanks to some help from teammate Steve Ott. Backes could barely get through the story: Read more
All it took was a quarter century of blood, sweat and playoff anguish. Finally, the San Jose Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup final. They came home to the SAP Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference final Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Whereas previous incarnations of the Sharks may have crumbled under the pressure, the 2015-16 version showed killer instinct right away. They took the lead on a Joe Pavelski goal 3:57 into the first period and never relinquished it, winning 5-2, weathering a mini-storm from the Blues in the third.
The San Jose Sharks arrived on the NHL scene in 1991-92, kicking off the NHL’s Sun Belt expansion. The early years were ugly as can be, with the Sharks winning 28 game over their first two seasons combined, joining the Mount Rushmore of awful hockey teams with the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators. The Sharks awakened as a relevant team in 1993-94 under coach Kevin Constantine when they upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and have been a competitive franchise ever since, making the post-season in 18 their past 22 campaigns. But they were perpetually the so-close-yet-so far team, losing three times in the Western Conference final, twice during Jumbo Joe Thornton’s prime. Coach Ron Wilson couldn’t get them over the top. Todd McLellan couldn’t do it.
But, finally, the Sharks are Stanley Cup finalists. They toppled the St. Louis Blues in six games, shutting down St. Louis’ most dangerous forwards, especially Vladimir Tarasenko, whose lone goals game with the score 4-0 in Game 6. The Sharks’ elite players shone through, especially Pavelski, who scored his 13th goal of the playoffs in Game 6 and has to be the Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner right now.