ST. LOUIS - Ken Hitchcock is coming back for one more season.
After guiding the St. Louis Blues to their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2001, the 64-year-old head coach has signed a one-year contract extension with the club.
“This season has invigorated me like no season before,” Hitchcock said during a press conference at Scottrade Center on Tuesday. “For 10 years, I haven’t seen anything like this and it was really exciting. It was fun to be around and it was a great group of people with a tremendously structured, defined leadership (group) in that locker room. It make it so fun to coach. I really think we have another gear in us and I want to be part of that.”
Hitchcock also said the 2016-17 season would be his last.
“I’m not coaching after this year,” he said. “This is it. I’m done.”
Hitchcock has accumulated a 224-103-36 record in 363 games behind the bench in St. Louis. His coaching career has spanned 19 NHL seasons, 1,404 games and 757 wins, which ranks fourth all-time in NHL history. He’s led his teams to 13 appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning one championship with the Dallas Stars in 1999.
More recently, he’s led the Blues to five consecutive postseason appearances and guided the team to 107 points in 2015-16 - their fourth highest regular season total in franchise history. The Blues also dispatched the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Central Division Champion Dallas Stars in the playoffs this season.
“Since the day he walked through this door, we win two out of every three games we play. That’s an incredible winning percentage,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. “We didn’t get to our ultimate goal (this year), but that showed me there’s enough left in the tank for Ken. He said it gets better, and I trust him when he says it gets better. We’re going to go at this one more time.
“A year from now, we’ll be talking about the next head coach of the St. Louis Blues. But it’s not now.”
Armstrong said all of the assistant coaches have been offered similar one-year contract extensions. Blues Associate Coach Brad Shaw, who has been with the club since 2006, has decided not to return and will instead pursue other opportunities.
Hitchcock said he made the decision that 2016-17 would be his final season just days after the playoffs ended. Each summer, he participates in intense coaching seminars that require applying for a spot a full year in advance. He’ll participate this year, but said he won’t be applying for next year’s session.
“To me, I’m just ready to go for next year. I’m excited,” Hitchcock said. “This is an unbelievable group of guys with a ton of potential and I’m ready to do it. (Our team’s) dynamic has changed. When you have accountability in your locker room, you have that balance between friendship and teammates, you can overcome anything. That creates an attitude where your team is not afraid to win. And that’s what’s here right now.
“I feel like I’ve got one really good year in me.”