It’s only really been a month, but the 2011-12 season has already provided its fair share of surprises.
Sunday night was no exception, as it seemed that the wrong Central Division team with “Blue” in its name parted ways with their head coach. Rather than the Columbus Blue Jackets, the St. Louis Blues were the franchise that made the big front office change, as they dismissed Davis Payne in favor of Ken Hitchcock. (Naturally, Columbus probably won't be far behind, but it's shocking that St. Louis beat them to the pink slip punch.)
After the initial wave of “Whaaaat?” responses, fantasy hockey owners must ask themselves: how will this affect my team?
THE HITCH BLUES
Well, if you judge the situation based solely on his past reputation, Hitchcock should pump up the Blues’ defense and drive their young players crazy. One would then assume that Jaroslav Halak might just break his slump while T.J. Oshie will cry in his oatmeal.
The thing is, considering their personnel, the Blues haven’t been all that porous on defense so far this season. They’re only allowing 26 shots per game and Brian Elliott was putting up great numbers amid Halak’s struggles. The Blues also employ a group of forwards who might not really need the “change Mike Modano into a two-way player” treatment – at least not in a drastic way. (I mean, really, it’s hard to imagine Hitch having much of an issue with the way David Backes goes about his business.)
Nope, if there’s anything that should change dramatically, it might just be the sense of urgency. After all, the Blues weren’t, well ... Blue Jackets-level horrible so far this season. Then again, maybe that’s the point; Hitchcock can come in at 6-7-0 with plenty of time to help this team make the jump from a solid but not-so-compelling mix to a group that’s really difficult to play against.
In other words, it’s difficult to say who exactly will prosper and suffer – aside from Halak because he really has nowhere else to go but up – but considering Hitch’s impressive body of work, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team get better in a big picture kind of way.
It’s a shame that Payne had to get steamrolled in the process, though.