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Blues name Yeo as Hitchcock's successor

Will take over as St. Louis coach beginning with 2017-18 season

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Yeo was named Monday to succeed Ken Hitchcock as coach of the St. Louis Blues beginning with the 2017-18 season. Hitchcock said next season will be his last as a coach in the NHL.

Yeo was hired as associate coach and Rick Wilson as an assistant for the 2016-17 season. Yeo signed a four-year contract, with the final three as Blues coach that will run through the 2019-20 season.

The Blues brought Yeo into town the first week of June, where he was picked up at the airport by Hitchcock. The two spent two hours in conversations before Yeo met with general manager Doug Armstrong, assistant GM Martin Brodeur and Al MacInnis, senior adviser to Armstrong.

Yeo was linked to coaching jobs with the Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames, but Armstrong followed up with phone conversations after the initial meetings. 

"There's a comfort level with him working with Ken for a year," Armstrong said. "I'm excited about his age (42) as far as the growth pattern with our team. We're transferring into an area where younger players are going to take a bigger role and I think he fits with his experience and his young age. I think he's a good fit for us moving forward."

Video: Hitchcock, Armstrong on additions of Yeo and Wilson

Armstrong first reached out to Yeo in 2010 when the Blues were looking for a coach for their American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria, but Yeo opted for the job in Houston, the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate. 

Yeo spent the past five seasons as Wild coach before being fired on Feb. 14 and replaced by John Torchetti. Yeo led Minnesota to a 173-132-44 regular-season record and three Stanley Cup Playoff appearances. The Wild eliminated the Blues in the Western Conference First Round in 2015. 

"I thought all the situations that were available were great, but when Doug and I started talking, this quickly jumped to the top of my list and my family's list as far as places to live, the markets to be in," Yeo said. "But I want to win, and I feel this is a place with the ownership, with the management, with the coaches, with the players, I really believe that it's a place that I can come and be successful. 

"On top of that, I'm 42 years old, I've had a good amount of experience behind me. I've had a decent run in Minnesota. But I'm not looking to be a decent coach. I'm looking to be a great coach and I think the opportunity to work with a guy like [Hitchcock], to have that opportunity to learn in the group before you jump into that coaching position, I just felt like this was a perfect fit and that's why I was so excited about it."

Hitchcock said he is 100 percent certain the transition will work out for the best.

"I'm confident in my abilities," Hitchcock said. "I'm not afraid of that responsibility. I've been dealing with one-year contracts since the second year I was here. None of that stuff scares me one bit. 

"This is something smart for the organization. We have a responsibility, a stewardship for the future of the organization. This is the best-case scenario for the future of the organization. For allowing a coach to come and be a part of it moving forward so he learns the lay of the land and to have the clear understanding of expectations. ... It fit and it fit really well. 

"I'm really comfortable with it. I know Mike is. I know he's going to help me get better and I know I'm going to help him get better. If Mike gets enough information from me and enough knowledge, then he can be a coach for 20 years and have real success. That's my goal, to help the team now but also to leave it in great shape for the future."

Video: Andy Strickland on Mike Yeo's hiring

Prior to his time with Minnesota, Yeo spent one season with Houston, where he coached the Aeros to the 2011 Calder Cup Final. He spent 10 seasons in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, six as an assistant for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, and four as an assistant in Pittsburgh, including when the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup under coach Dan Bylsma. 

Yeo was fired after the Wild went on an eight-game losing streak (0-6-2) and had lost eight in a row (0-5-3) at Xcel Energy Center, their longest skid since 2001. 

"I think we're all better prepared the second time around than the first time around," Armstrong said. "I know certain [general] managers feel that way and I think coaches feel that way. [Yeo's] got a lot of experience." 

Yeo, who was 11-17 in 28 playoff games, will get the opportunity to work with young players including Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko.  

"I take great pride in putting in the work and doing what we can to develop young players," Yeo said. "I just think when you look at where the game is at, you look at a team like St. Louis and obviously, it's a team that's ready to win right now, but the window's not closing. This is a team that's built for success for a number of years. A lot of these young players, they will get better and the team will get better. 

"I'm incredibly excited to get the chance to work with such great people, to get the chance to work with a team as strong as this one and to do it in a market with fans that are as passionate and supportive as I've witnessed from the St. Louis market. My family and I are incredibly excited and I'm looking forward to joining the community and being a part of this great organization." 

Assistant coach Ray Bennett, goalie coach Jim Corsi and video coach Sean Ferrell will return to the staff.

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