St. Louis Blues' head coach Ken Hitchcock's NHL career has been a long and dramatic play spanning almost two decades. If there is one common thread to tie each of his previous coaching stints together, it is that his teams played well and generally had success - but also that his personality often rubbed players the wrong way and led either directly or indirectly to his being shipped out of town.
The very same script from that all-too-familiar story may be playing out in St. Louis right now, according to Tom Callahan of Talking Puck.
In three seasons in St. Louis, Hitchcock has led the Blues to a first place and two second place finishes in the Central Division, but the team has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs - leading Callahan to wonder if the Blues have begun to tune out Hitch's message.
At stops in Dallas, Philadelphia and Columbus, Hitchcock found varying degrees of success, but he also eventually found locker rooms turned off by his difficult, often grating personality.
In Dallas, he initially took control of the team midway through the 1996 season. He helped turn the Stars around, and eventually led them to a Stanley Cup win in his fourth year on the job and a loss in the finals the year after. Things unraveled thereafter, grumblings in the locker room about Hitchcock's style became too loud to ignore, and he was jettisoned.
His Philadelphia stint saw Hitchcock find early success again, leading the Flyers to 107 regular-season points and a Conference Semi-Finals trip his first season, 2002-03, and a division win and Conference Finals trip the next. By 2006-07, Hitchcock's act had worn thin, and a 1-6-1 start to the season led to his dismissal.
From November 2006 to February 2010, Hitchcock helmed the expansion of the Columbus Blue Jackets. During his time there, the team only reached the playoffs once - a prompt sweeping by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round - and again, after grumbling from key players in the locker room about his style, Hitchcock was fired.
Now behind the bench in St. Louis, a team many expected to be Stanley Cup contenders, they have yet to reach anywhere near that level of success in the postseason. With Hitchcock admitting after a loss to Vancouver this season that he has "no idea what type of team we have," things are looking murky.
Still, it's very early in the year and the Blues have every chance of turning it around, as Callahan himself noted. But as playwrights will tell you, to make a piece believable even as it sweeps into the fantastic, a character must act in a way that is altogether expected, and it's not hard to follow the continuous thread that has bound the main character in this play.