Coaching Candidates: Ken Hitchcock
So the Devils won the lottery and are getting 4th pick in the draft this year. Great! But we can’t forget the fact that the team still doesn’t have a coach. There have been many names floating around, so let’s talk about them. This is the first of a series of posts, so check back often!
With the euphoria of the Devils winning the draft lottery and picking 4th (would’ve been 2nd if we had lost our final game and assured us of getting Adam Larsson…that’s another rant for another day), one question still remains. Who is gonna coach the team? Sure there is a perception in this organization that you could throw a cardboard cut-out of Toe Blake, put him behind the bench, and the Devils will win 40 games. However, I think we all have our nightmares thinking back to last year. We also don’t have the luxury of having “The Great Teacher” Jacques Lemaire coming back. So we search, looking for a new leader to help this team get back on track after a disappointing season. Over the next couple of days I will go over the names being circulated around by fans and the media. First up, Ken Hitchcock.
The former Stanley Cup winning coach has a defense first, old school hockey philosophy that can fit well with the message the Devils organization conveys. There are a lot of people who frown upon this choice but he is one I would definitely agree with. People point to how he failed in both Philadelphia and in Columbus. Let’s take a look at why I feel he got the short end of the stick there.
In Philadelphia, Hitch had a team that was in transition. There were quite a few aging players who got passed over as the “new NHL” took over (Derian Hatcher, Petr Nedved), and others who got hurt if they gripped their cereal spoon too hard (looking at you, Petr Forsbe…oh great, he just broke his femur. NURSE!). Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were both in their first years in the NHL and didn’t produce the points that they would the following season and beyond. Also, the Flyers were not patient whatsoever after starting the season 1-6-1. Given the patience that Lou showed this year with the horrendous start the Devils had this year, the quick trigger the Flyers had with Hitchcock is quite surprising. Never mind the fact that Hitchcock led his teams the playoffs every year, including going to a Game 7 in 2004 against the eventual champion Lightning.
In Columbus he was never given a fair chance to grow with the franchise. He was hired midway through the season and with a full season under his belt he put the league on notice that the Blue Jackets were to be taken seriously. This was a franchise that had no identity other than they were always awful. Ken Hitchcock changed that by teaching his guys how to play and how to understand the game. The following season the Blue Jackets made the playoffs on the back of superstar rookie Steve Mason. Yes they got swept in that first round, but it was against the Detroit Red Wings which could have been the toughest opponent any first-time playoff team could have faced. His 3rd season was cut short as he was fired midway through the year, mostly because of a terrible sophomore slump by Steve Mason. While he did make the playoffs the previous season by having the players buy into his system, the talent just was not there. As Devils fans we are always aware of our defensive skills and personnel and Columbus had neither. They were young and inexperienced and it showed even more so when Mason began his struggles. Instead of being patient and acquiring the players around Rick Nash as needed, he was set up for failure.
In New Jersey I really feel Ken will be able to succeed. He is a defensive minded coach who also lets his star players be star players. He had 40 goal scorers on his teams in Philly and Columbus so you cannot say he restricts offense at all. What he does is promote accountability and using defense to create offensive chances. Sound familiar? Just like Mr. Lemaire. Now I do not think he is on the level of The Great Teacher, but I do think he is one that can be a great fit for a team like this.
Check back soon when we take a look at Kirk Muller as a choice for the next Devils coach. Until then, leave a comment and let us know how you feel about Ken Hitchcock.
Posted on May 10, 2011, in Coaching Candidates, New Jersey Devils, New Jersey Devils Fans, NHL and tagged Coach, Jacques Lemaire, Ken Hitchcock, Kirk Muller, New Jersey Devils, NHL. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.