Ken Hitchcock with Jason Arnott and David Backes (Getty Image/Mark Buckner)

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (Joe Richter, Missouri Sports Magazine) – If you don’t think the St. Louis Blues are serious about winning, just ask Davis Payne.  If there’s an automatic positive out of the Blues relieving their head coach, Payne, of his duties, fans won’t have to put up with all the bad puns from sportswriters (and “House of Payne” puns from marketers).  There’s another positive: Payne’s replacement, Ken Hitchcock, is a winner.

My initial reaction upon hearing the news Sunday night of Payne’s release was “wow, the Blues aren’t messing around.”  They obviously want to reward their fans for continuing to support the team despite years of playoff absences.  Blues GM Doug Armstrong went out and added lots of playoff-experienced players such as Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to supplement the young talent.  And now they added a coach with the same credibility.

The numbers don’t lie.  Hitchcock brings a career record of 534-350-88-70 (for a .588 winning percentage) to the Blues.  He won the Stanley Cup in 1999.  His teams have accrued more than 100 points in a season an astonishing eight times – and many of those were before the current procedure of shootout winners getting two points, instead of settling for a one-point tie.  Hitchcock has six division titles, as well as nine 40-win seasons.  Are you convinced yet?

Ok, chew on this, then.  When asked about what it will take to fix the Blues power play problems (last in the NHL), he said, “One practice.”  I got chills.

Davis Payne has given us some good hockey since taking over; he leaves the Blues with a 67-55-15 record (6-7-0 this year, with most of those games on the road).  At the age of 41, he was one of the youngest coaches in the league.  At age 59, Hitchcock is now the second-oldest coach in the league.  Age isn’t the end-all for a coach, but experience might be – especially in the playoffs.

Not that there was a lot of nonsense going on with Payne as coach, but a no-nonsense coach (Hitchcock) is exactly what a young team needs.  Former Blues star and Stanley Cup winner with Hitchcock’s ’99 Dallas Stars, Brett Hull, expressed that very sentiment.  Hey, if he got Hullie to change his game to fit his system, I would hope he can get the best out of players like Patrik Berglund, TJ Oshie, and Chris Stewart – who have underachieved at times this season.  Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets is a perfect example of a Hitchcock getting a young player to blossom under his tutelage.

Another aspect of Hitchcock is his ability to get the best out his goalies.  And if there’s anything the Blues need more, let me know.  Jaroslav Halak has been perhaps the biggest underachiever on the team.  True, the team hasn’t played its best in front of him, but we all know Halak is better than he has played.  Looking at some of the goalies that Hitchcock has worked with, they have had some of their best seasons under his system.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; the Blues have a long season staring them in the face.  It will take time to really get things together for the new coach.  But five games in a row at home, along with six of their next seven, should give “Hitch” a chance to get organized.

At least he might be able to fix that blasted power play.  And at least he might be able to make the team serious about a playoff run.  The fans are serious, and now the Blues proved they’re just as serious.  It’s time to win.