With a team loaded on offense and perfectly capable of holding its own on the back end, the reasons were obvious. The club hadn't won a playoff series in a decade, had qualified for the postseason just once in the last six years and was only six seasons removed from finishing with the worst record in the NHL.
So when the team opened the season 6-7-0 and in 14th place in the Western Conference, general manager Doug Armstrong moved quickly to replace Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock. It was a move that would not only impact the team, but the balance of power in the Western Conference.
2011-12 NHL TROPHY TRACKER
- HART TROPHY: Dominant Malkin in a landslide
- VEZINA TROPHY: Quick gets nod in photo finish
- NORRIS TROPHY: Karlsson stands out from pack
- JACK ADAMS AWARD: Hitch brings out best in Blues
- SELKE TROPHY: Bergeron is our wire-to-wire winner
- LADY BYNG TROPHY: Eriksson elevates his game
- CALDER TROPHY: Well-rounded Landeskog shines
- GM OF THE YEAR: Poile builds Preds into contender
With "Hitch" at the helm, the Blues have become a Stanley Cup contender in relatively quick fashion. The team clinched the Central Division and is heading into the playoffs in good shape. An impressive home record doesn't bode well for the team with the unenviable task of drawing the Blues in the opening round of the playoffs.
Hitchcock is NHL.com's favorite to become the fourth coach in team history to win the Jack Adams Award and first since Joel Quenneville in 2000.
Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues -- Since taking over behind the bench in November, Hitchcock has won 42 of his 66 games behind the bench. The Blues enter the postseason with the lowest goals-against average in the League while allowing the fewest shots-per-game.
Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators -- MacLean has not only instilled a winning attitude, but has the Senators on an emotional high after qualifying for the playoffs for the second time in four seasons. And to think, hockey prognosticators figured Ottawa in the running for a solid lottery pick this season. He has also helped revitalize the career of Jason Spezza, who topped the 80-point mark for the first time in four seasons.
Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators -- The second-longest tenured coach in the NHL belongs in the running for the Jack Adams for a third straight season after helping the Predators reach the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons while winning at least 40 games for the seventh straight time. The 49-year-old Trotz does it by instilling a blue-collar work ethic and holding every player accountable.