I’ve liked Ken Hitchcock for a while now, and I still believe Columbus was crazy for firing him and sending him straight to the division rival St. Louis Blues. Now, a few years later, Hitchcock has built an arsenal of weapons in St. Louis. Lucky for Columbus, they’re out of Hitchcock’s cross-hairs now that they’ve crossed over to the good life in the Eastern Conference.
Hitchcock’s defensive coaching style has always been a marvel, and it has shown over the last few seasons in St. Louis. Hitchcock had his defense in place after the Blues were big buyers last season at the deadline acquiring Jay Bouwmeester in a trade with the Calgary Flames, and Jordan Leopold from the Buffalo Sabres. The deals didn’t lead to a magnificent Cup run, but that’s what second chances are for. The Blues had a capable offensive attack with big bodies averaging 3.14 goals a game this season, good enough for third best in the league.
The Blues have the third best goals per game, on top of third best goals against a game, and they’re doing that with mid-level talent in net. The Blues also rank second in the league in shots against, while the Buffalo Sabres have given up nearly 500 more shots, and are second worst in the league.
Ryan Miller and Steve Ott are up for quite a change in scenery. Steve Ott brings leadership and a physical game plan night in and night out to the Blues locker room, while Miller faces 20 shots a game as opposed to the 34 he was taking in Buffalo.
The Blues part ways with Chris Stewart, who has shown the ability to play well in the offensive end, Jaroslav Halak, who can man the net until Matt Hackett develops into a full time NHL goalie. William Carrier, a second round pick last season will also be headed to Buffalo along with a first round pick, and a conditional third round pick.
Not a terrible price to give up if you’re the St. Louis Blues. The Blues immediately get better, and now have a strong team to go deep in the playoffs with. The Blues are still competing in a rough Western Conference, but with a move like this, they’re proving their point that they want a Cup and they want it now. The Blues are my new favorite to win the Cup this season. What do you think?