There’s a lot of weirdness about this Hitchcock farewell tour and the planned succession to Mike Yeo. It’s all very Blues, and it’ll be even more Blues in the various ways it could go totally balls-up.
First off, we know Hitch grudgingly lets his team get up and down the ice, and would rather be coaching the All-Blacks and play that version of hockey. But look at this roster. Where exactly is his beloved jam? Backes and Brouwer headed for the exit, and in came in only David Perron and the only grinding with him is the one that produces smoke coming out of his ears when trying to do any sort of math problem. Lehtera, Tarasenko, now Yakupov, Schwartz (for the five minutes he’s in one piece), Stastny, Jaskin, Robbi Fabbry or Robby Fabbri, this team has much, much more skill than GRITSANDPAPERHEARTFAAAAARRT. Is Hitch going to open up the throttle on this? Doesn’t he have to to maximize what he’s got?
Secondly, you’ve not got an assistant who’s going to be formulating just how he’s going to deploy the troops once he’s in command, starting tomorrow night. What if things aren’t going well for the first month? Where does Yeo go? Does he suggest to Hitch his ideas? And if Hitch doesn’t like them, couldn’t Yeo talk to the players and/or GM about it? After all, he’s the one taking over next year. He’s invested here. Hitch no longer is.
Also, these planned transitions have a funny way of not working. As assistant’s job, or part of it, is to be the liaison between coach and players, which is why the ones who get a bit buddy-buddy with the players are eyed suspiciously by the coach. That’s how you end up coaching Colorado College, Mike Haviland. But how do you go from that tighter relationship to less approachable the following season without confusing some players? Ask Dave Lewis, he’d probably have some ideas.
Thirdly, why exactly does Hitch get a retirement tour? He’s won precisely dick in St. Louis. Two division titles? No Final appearance? Yeo himself has appeared in the second round just as many times with the Wild as Hitch has done with the Blues. In this version of the NHL, Yeo almost has as much credibility. What exactly are the Blues hanging onto here?
The Blues have already been known to tune Hitch out from time to time, and with his exit now confirmed if that happens again you wonder how he’d ever rope them back in. Quite frankly, we wouldn’t be shocked if the transition happens at Christmas, and not next fall.
Because there are some issues that either of these guys are going to have to solve. While Backes and Brouwer were hardly beloved around these offices, that’s 40 goals that just walked out the door. Where’s that getting made up? Sure, perhaps another year of growth from Fabbri or Fabbry, a reclamation of Yakupov maybe, but where else? Haven’t we been waiting on Dmitrij Jaskin for like three years now? It’s either now or never, it would seem.
In addition, Hitchock is going to have to figure out in a hurry how to stop throwing Jabe O’Meester out against the other teams’ top lines. I don’t know how in the fuck that jerk-ass got on Team Canada other than Hitch threatening to eat Babcock if he didn’t, or the suggestion seemed pretty reasonable after Quenneville’s campaigning for Andrew Shaw on Team Canada. Either way. But the solutions aren’t clear. Both Kirk ShattenKevin and Colton Burpo are righties, as is Alex OrangeJello. None of the three have played the left side, at least not much. They’d probably be better off seeing if ShattenKevin can do it, because he’s probably the best d-man they have. But that would take a leap of faith Hitch has never seemed capable of.
This is going to be some excellent TV watching from the go.