St. Louis Blues – Who Would Have Thought?

The St. Louis Blues are in first place and have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season. The team had talent but after a slow start with former head coach Davis Pane, Ken Hitchcock was brought in and the team made a turnaround no one expected to see. Hitchcock took a Blues team that struggled to win under Pane and has best utilized the talent.

I saw the Blues play their first regular season game against the Predators and it was apparent there was talent on the team. Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner were two veterans brought in to help anchor some of the younger players like Chris Stewart, Ben Shattenkirk, and TJ Oshie and Jaroslav Halak was supposed to be the goaltender of the future. The roster seemed to have the talent but the team struggled to play well defensively and gave up too many opportunities.

Not too long after I witnessed that game, Pane was fired and Hitchcock was brought in. Hithcock is a bit of a journeyman when it comes to coaching but has managed to turn rough starts around. He turned around the Dallas Stars, the Columbus Blue Jackets (for a season or two), and the Philadelphia Flyers and now it was time to see what he could do with the Blues.

Hitchcock had two goaltenders he inherited; Halak and Ben Elliot. Halak was the long-term investment for the Blues while Elliot was brought in for cheap. Elliot proved critics wrong by going on a tear and when he and Halak started winning games, the Blues ended up with a two goalie tandem that has helped them be competitive this season. Elliot has proven he can be a reliable NHL goaltender and Halak has developed into the goaltender the Blues hoped they would get.

David Backes was the team captain at the beginning of the season but has shown his true leadership skills under Hitchcock. Backes has helped become a leader on this team and that leadership will help the Blues as they make their way into the postseason. Backes has helped lead this team already in tough games and will need to continue that into the postseason.

Since taking over, Hithcock has gotten the most out of what he has on the roster and it has shown in the standings. Alexander Steen has vastly improved, TJ Oshie has provided scoring and more shots on goal, and Matt D’Agostini has grown and developed as the year has gone by. The lines have been more cohesive and Hithcock has also incorporated more defense into the style of play.

The Blues have come a long way since the beginning of the season and with the playoffs just a few weeks away, they could be making a run at a long postseason.

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~ by jeffrsabo on March 10, 2012.

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