The St. Louis Blues will go down this season as one of the most unprecedented turn-arounds in year’s past.
And with the round-about of coaching changes from the Washington Capitals to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks, only the Blues found success when switching out a bench boss.
Ken Hitchcock isn't just the most successful coach to come in during the season, but the most successful overall. He's had a lot of tools to work with, but St. Louis doing this earlier, than later, has helped.
Why is that? First, here’s the stats of each coach:
Ken Hitchcock: Appointed Blues coach Nov. 6; Record: 45-13-10; Pct: .723
Dale Hunter: Appointed Capitals coach Nov. 28; Record: 27-22-10; Pct: .545
Bruce Boudreau: Appointed Ducks coach Nov. 30; Record: 26-20-7; Pct: .557
Darryl Sutter: Appointed Los Angeles Kings coach Dec. 17; Record: 23-13-8; Pct: .614
Randy Cunneyworth: Appointed Montreal Canadiens interim coach Dec. 17; Record: 16-22-7; Pct: .433
Todd Richards: Appointed Columbus Blue Jackets interim coach Jan. 9; Record: 14-20-2; Pct: .417
Randy Carlyle: Appointed Maple Leafs coach March 2; Record: 4-8-2; Pct: .357
For some teams, finding a polar opposite of coaching personality works, and doing it early rather than later is even better. Davis Payne had potential and proved himself with the Peoria Chiefs years ago. However, a rocky 6-7 start, with a considerably talented roster capable of doing much more, resulted in the 41-year-old’s dismissal.
So, the Blues brought a proven champion in Hitchcock, and he’s been able to get the Blues’ defensive game in line. They’re ranked No. 1 in the NHL with fewest shots allowed per game (26.4) and No. 1 also in goals allowed (1.82). Meanwhile, the Blues have been able to keep special teams an important part of their success, posting league seventh-best 85.4 percent penalty kill conversion rate.
The depth of the Blues’ defense is obviously a great help while the tandem of Jaroslav Halák and Brian Elliott have replaced the awe that once filtered in Minnesota for the Wild earlier this season.
Additionally, while pulling the trigger to can a bench boss is always the toughest decision to make, as it took Brian Burke too long to do so for Ron Wilson, the Blues definitely benefited from making a change very early, as opposed from players having to learn a new system later in the season with more on the line in less time.
As we see on the bench boss roundup above, most coaches obtain a lower win percentage as they’re introduced later and later in the season.
There’s plenty to credit Hitchcock for, but, if anything, time was on his side.
Matthew Wilson is editor of Center Ice Chat. Follow him on Twitter @Mattjw24. Be sure to also Like us on Facebook and to Follow our Tumblr page. If you'd like to contribute, or appear as a guest columnist, please email us at CenterIceChat@gmail.com.