Blue Jackets hire Ken Hitchcock as coach

November 23rd, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Blue Jackets hire Ken Hitchcock as coach


Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ken Hitchcock accepted the job of coaching the downtrodden Columbus Blue Jackets because of their promising young stars but also their veterans.
"They have veteran players who have won the Stanley Cup before, guys who know what it takes," the former Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers coach said. "They've got people like Sergei Fedorov, Adam Foote and Fredrik Modin who know what it takes to win."
Hitchcock, fired on Oct 22 by the Flyers, will be formally introduced as the sixth-year franchise's fifth head coach at a news conference Thursday. Team president and general manager Doug MacLean announced Hitchcock's hiring shortly before the team took the ice Wednesday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis, the team's seventh consecutive defeat.
The Blue Jackets have the worst record in the NHL at 5-13-1-1.
There had been speculation that Hitchcock might wait to coach his first game for the Blue Jackets, avoiding Friday's showdown against the Flyers in Philadelphia out of respect for his former team.
Asked if he'd be behind the bench against the team that canned him, he twice said, "You bet."
The 54-year-old Hitchcock replaces interim head coach Gary Agnew, an assistant to Gerard Gallant who took over after Gallant was fired on Nov. 14.
MacLean confirmed that the other finalist was Andy Murray, who went 215-202-63-7 as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1999-06.
Hitchcock's new contract runs through the 2008-09 season and is believed to be in the range of the $1.2 million annually he received from the Flyers.
"He's a winner. He's a guy that pushes people to the limit," MacLean said. "And we have a lot of guys that need to be pushed."
Columbus has had a reputation for being a talented but soft team which features young stars such as Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev.
Despite a roster that also includes those two along with proven pros Fedorov, Modin, Foote, David Vyborny and Anson Carter, the Blue Jackets are last in the NHL in goals this season with 43 in their 20 games.
In a telephone interview during Wednesday's game, a Blue Jackets TV announcer told Hitchcock that several players said they were excited that he was their new coach.
"We'll see about that in a month," Hitchcock cracked.
Hitchcock, with 408 career NHL victories in 750 games, is seen as a disciplinarian who sets high expectations for his players and then grinds at them until they reach them. In 503 games as coach of the Dallas Stars from 1996-02, he had a record of 277-166-60-7. He guided the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999.
As those young stars he had helped transform into superstars got older, his effectiveness was seen by some to have waned and he was fired 50 games into the 2001-02 season.
He earned a gold medal as an associate coach with Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Hitchcock took over the Flyers in 2002-2003. They made the playoffs each of their three seasons under Hitchcock but suffered disappointing early knockouts in the playoffs despite a lineup that included Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne.
When the Flyers got off to a 1-6-1-0 start this season, Hitchcock was fired in a purge that also saw general manager and former Flyers star Bobby Clarke step down.
Gallant had coached the Blue Jackets for one full season and parts of two others but was fired last week because his team also got off to a slow start at 5-9-1-0. The club was 0-4-0-1 under Agnew.
"We need to change the culture and I think he's the guy to do it," MacLean said. "It (Hitchcock's hiring) is a crossroads and I think it's an important one."

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