Blues show Hitch­cock the door months early

MIKE YEO MOVES UP

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Blues have abruptly fired coach Ken Hitch­cock, cut­ting short the vet­eran’s fi­nal sea­son in St. Louis and putting coach-in-wait­ing Mike Yeo in charge of the un­der­per­form­ing team months ear­lier than planned.

Gen­eral man­ager Doug Armstrong an­nounced the change Wed­nes­day, one day af­ter the Blues’ fifth loss in six games.

The 65-year-old Hitch­cock was in his sixth sea­son as Blues coach. They went 248-124-41 and made the play­offs in each of his five sea­sons, reach­ing the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal last spring. But St. Louis went just 5-8 in Jan­uary and at 24-21-5 was mired in eighth place in the West­ern Con­fer­ence entering the day.

Hitch­cock took the fall for the Blues’ un­der­achiev­ing sea­son, which had a lot to do with goal­tend­ing strug­gles.

Goalies Jake Allen, Carter Hut­ton and Pheonix Co­p­ley have com­bined for an .887 save per­cent­age, which is the worst team mark in the NHL.

Fired by the Min­nesota Wild last February, Yeo was added to Hitch­cock’s staff in the off-sea­son to be his suc­ces­sor be­gin­ning in 2017-18. Hitch­cock has said he’s in­ter­ested in con­tin­u­ing to coach else­where af­ter this sea­son.

Hitch­cock has coached 20 NHL sea­sons with the Dal­las Stars, Philadel­phia Fly­ers, Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets and Blues. He won the Stan­ley Cup with Dal­las in 1999, and his 781 ca­reer reg­u­lar-sea­son vic­to­ries are fourth all-time, one shy of Hockey Hall of Fame coach Al Ar­bour for third.

Yeo’s team has a new look af­ter last sea­son.

David Backes, who spent 10 years in St. Louis, is now in Bos­ton. Goalie Brian El­liott was traded to Cal­gary. Troy Brouwer, the Blues’ se­cond-lead­ing goal scorer in the play­offs last spring, signed with Cal­gary. Steve Ott, af­ter two-plus sea­sons with the Blues, went to Detroit.

But the Blues still have plenty of tal­ent, in­clud­ing All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexan­der Steen, Paul Stastny, Kevin Shat­tenkirk and cap­tain Alex Pi­etrangelo.

Hitch­cock is the third coach to be fired this sea­son fol­low­ing Ger­ard Gal­lant of the Florida Pan­thers in Novem­ber and Jack Ca­puano of the New York Is­lan­ders in Jan­uary. He and Gal­lant im­me­di­ately be­come can­di­dates for the ex­pan­sion Ve­gas Golden Knights, who be­gin play next sea­son but could hire a coach at any time.

JEFF ROBER­SON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The St. Louis Blues fired coach Ken Hitch­cock, above, on Wed­nes­day, re­plac­ing him with Mike Yeo.

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