Tuesday, December 12, 2006

St Louis Hires New Coach

When a team is doing poorly, its just a matter of time before the caoch is fired even if the team's problems are not the coach's fault. In St Louis, there is very little talent. Sure they spent some money in the off season bringing in Doug Weight, Jay McKee, Bill Guerin, Martin Rucinsky, Radek Dvorak and Manny Legace, but this was a case of forced spending so that the team could make the salary floor more than an attempt to compete now. Unless their existing younger players like Eric Brewer and Barrett Jackmen can become NHL stars and start to become a viable core of a good team, signing aging free agents will not be a winning strategy. Nevertheless, the salary floor forces St Louis to at least partially follow this strategy and prevents them from giving all their roster spots to young players who may one day emerge as a good core.

St Louis is failing again this year. The situation is not made better when some of their free agent sigings in Jay McKee and Manny Legace get hurt (which is to be expected when you sign aging free agents). With Curtis Sanford also hurt, their top two goalies are both hurt. St Louis must find a fall guy for their lack of talent and the coach is a simple target. So just like Chicago, Columbus and Philadelphia, the coach has been fired.

In St Louis's case, there is little evidence that Mike Kitchen is a good NHL coach, so his replacement cannot hurt. They feel that they missed the boat by letting Ken Hitchcock go to Columbus. So they fired Kitchen and hired Andy Murray. Murray is a good coach with a solid track record who was let go by LA in a desparate failed attempt to make the playoffs last year. Its a move that cannot hurt the Blues, but they are still not a good team.

St Louis's coach replacement will not make the Blues a good team. It might give them a short term boost, but thats likely the end of the benefits.

Here is TSN's story on Murray's hiring.

Firing the coach is such a cop-out, but the Blues fans I talk to seem to agree that Mike Kitchen wasn't a very good coach, despite the crappy roster and all the injury problems. I can't say I'm sad to see him go, but it's not as if even Scotty Bowman could turn this roster into a playoff squad.
The Blues have serious defensive problems that won't be fixed quickly. According to my latest piece, their defense gives up the 2nd-most dangerous shots in the league, and the goaltending is subpar to boot (understandable given the injuries). Improving your team defense without sacrificing offense is pretty rare, absent wholesale roster changes, and failing on that front pretty much cost Trent Yawney his job already this year.

At least Andy Murray should have a honeymoon through the rest of this year and an opportunity to turn the roster over by next fall...
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