The Blues' Ken Hitchcock and Red Wings' Mike Babcock
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Mike Babcock and Ken Hitchcock have developed a pretty good friendship and mutual respect for one another over their years in the NHL.
Heck, Babcock even wanted Hitchcock on his Team Canada coaching staff at the Winter Olympics in 2010. The former Dallas coach who guided the Stars to the 1999 Stanley Cup accepted the invitation, and Canada won gold. Last summer Babcock asked his friend if he’d join the Red Wings’ coaching staff. Hitchcock politely declined, and last month the 59-year-old Edmonton native took over the Blues’ head coaching gig.
For years, the coaching friends have picked each other’s brains about schemes, strategies and philosophies, so obviously they have very similar coaching styles.
“I think we are in 95 percent agreement with how the game is played,” Hitchcock said about Babcock. “There’s one change defensively that we did than what they did, and then offensively it’s pretty close to the similar philosophy.”
Since taking over for former coach Davis Payne, who was fired Nov. 6, Hitchcock has guided the St. Louis to a turnaround which has seen them vault from No. 14 in the Western Conference to a tie for No. 5. The noticeable difference for the Blues has been with their defense. Under Payne the Blues were out-scored 32-35 in 13 games. In 13 games under Hitchcock, St. Louis has turned the tables, outscoring opponents 31-23.
And ‘Hitch’ credits a lot of what he coaches to the things he learned from Babcock.
“I think where I learned the most was with the way they teach power play and penalty killing,” said Hitchcock, who was a guest at Wings’ training camp a few years ago. “I think that that really was helpful for me with going through the Olympic experience. I think you’re always wondering why their power play is always so successful for so many years, and then going through the Olympic experience between what we did defensively and what Detroit did defensively and offensively was kind of the game plan for the Olympics. And then watching Mike put the power play in play there and have success was an eye-opener, to kind of see the way he did things and their kind of philosophy was very revealing. So I think that part – it hasn’t shown yet – but it’s been very helpful for me.”
Something else that has impressed Hitchcock about the Red Wings’ way is their overall sense of family. It’s something that he hopes he can bring to St. Louis’ organization.
“The other thing that helped about being with Detroit was, we all talk about team, we all talk about all-inclusive, but they are an all-inclusive community,” he said. “When you go for dinner it’s 100 (percent). The dinners are huge, everybody’s involved. And when they talk about doing team-building activities during training camp it’s just a massive group of people from the people who volunteer in Traverse City to everybody, and everybody is expected to be there, which for me is really impressive.”