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Blues fire Payne, hire Hitchcock

Davis Payne

The St. Louis Blues have fired head coach Davis Payne and hired Ken Hitchcock as his replacement.

The coaching change can’t be considered a huge surprise as the talented Blues (6-7-0) have underachieved early this season. Payne has been behind the bench in St. Louis since taking over from Andy Murray halfway through the 2009-10 campaign. Payne failed to lead the Blues to the playoffs in either season, though 2010-11 was his only full one in charge.

The hiring of Hitchcock is more of a surprise as he was reportedly close to replacing Scott Arniel in Columbus. The St. Louis job will surely give the veteran coach a better chance to make the playoffs come April. In fact, you have to wonder if he had a choice between the two jobs. You also have to wonder if this is the reason Arniel is still employed after last night’s embarrassing loss in Philadelphia. Feel free to speculate on that.

Hitchcock has coached three NHL teams – Dallas, Philadelphia and Columbus – winning the 1999 Stanley Cup with the Stars. He’s not exactly known as a players’ coach, which might suggest Blues GM Doug Armstrong believes his young team needs a taskmaster in charge.

Hitchcock and Armstrong have a history together; the latter was the assistant general manager with the Stars when they won the Cup.