ST. LOUIS—Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock waited 13 years between nominations for the Jack Adams trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year. Although he joked that the award should be nicknamed “coach for the year,” he acknowledged that being announced as one of three finalists on Monday was gratifying to him in a different way than it was in his first three nominations, in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Hitchcock took over the Blues after the team had gone 6-7 under Coach Davis Payne. He was 43-15-11 the rest of the way in leading the Blues to their best season since 1999-2000. The Blues tied or broke 13 club records, including 30 home wins, and had the NHL’s best team goals-against average, 1.65.
The other finalists are Paul MacLean, who led Ottawa to the playoffs, and John Tortorella, who guided the New York Rangers to first place in the East.
Hitchcock had been fired as coach by the Columbus Blue Jackets in February 2010 but was still employed by the team as consultant when the Blues called.
“When you make a decision to coach as a living there’s times when you really need your family and friends. And in the last year and a half I’ve really needed family and friends, first to keep me sane, to keep me occupied and to keep me interested in doing this wonderful job that we get,” he said Monday after the Blues’ morning skate.
“But there are times when you really need to lean on them, especially from a family standpoint and friend standpoint, I really needed my family and my close friends, especially the ones in Columbus.… This was one of those times for me when I really needed help and I got it in a big way.”
Winger Andy McDonald said Hitchcock would be a deserving winner.
“It’s been great since he took over. What a change in this locker room,” McDonald said. “He’s really brought his experience, his knowledge, and he’s able to get all the players in this room to adapt to what he wants. Hopefully his strategy continues to work for us.”
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