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St. Louis Blues fire Ken Hitchcock, promote Mike Yeo to head coach

By
Rob Rains, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Blues new head coach Mike Yeo (L) talks to reporters as General Manager Doug Armstrong sits near, two hours after it was announced that the team had relieved head coach Ken Hitchock of his duties in St. Louis on February 1, 2017. Yeo was hired this past offseason as the incumbent to Hitchcock. Hitchcock joined the Blues on November 8, 2011. Over the past six seasons, he led the Blues to a 248-124-41 regular season record. Yeo, 43, is currently in his first season with the Blues after spending the majority of the last five seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis has lost five of their last six games. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
St. Louis Blues new head coach Mike Yeo (L) talks to reporters as General Manager Doug Armstrong sits near, two hours after it was announced that the team had relieved head coach Ken Hitchock of his duties in St. Louis on February 1, 2017. Yeo was hired this past offseason as the incumbent to Hitchcock. Hitchcock joined the Blues on November 8, 2011. Over the past six seasons, he led the Blues to a 248-124-41 regular season record. Yeo, 43, is currently in his first season with the Blues after spending the majority of the last five seasons as head coach of the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis has lost five of their last six games. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Ken Hitchcock, just one win away from tying for the third-most victories by a coach in the history of the NHL, was fired Wednesday by the St. Louis Blues.

Mike Yeo, the former head coach of the Minnesota Wild who was hired as the "coach in waiting" by the Blues last summer when Hitchcock announced that this would be his final season, will take over the head coaching duties beginning with Thursday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Blues general manager Doug Armstrong decided now was the time to make the change.

The move comes after the Blues lost 5-3 to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, their fifth loss in their last six games that dropped them to 24-21-5. It was the fourth consecutive home loss in regulation, the first time that has happened since 2006.

"We don't lose with pride. It just felt like we were hit and miss night in and night out," Armstrong said at a news conference Wednesday. "We need to demand more of ourselves. Our record is not indicative of what we thought. I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year, a re-trenching year. I was excited what we were going to go through. I was excited about going through it with a different mindset to what we've been in the past. We made a lot of hard decisions last summer. The decisions weren't just made with this season in mind but the future of the franchise in mind. But I was excited about that.

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"I was excited about moving forward with a group of players. And I don't think we've given our best effort. Ken is paying the price for all our failures, starting with mine. I'm the manager. I'm the president of hockey operations. It's my team."

Hitchcock, 65, was hired by the Blues in November 2011 and has the second-most career wins by a Blues coach. He has won 781 games in his 20 years of coaching in the NHL, one behind Al Arbour.

Hitchcock led the Blues to the Western Conference final last year, the first time the franchise reached that round since 2001, but the team has been inconsistent this season as it battles just to earn a playoff spot. The team has fallen to fourth in the Central Division and is one of several teams in the hunt for a wild-card spot.

"There's one former guy in that room that I think is going into the Hall of Fame and that's Ken Hitchcock," Armstrong said. "Now maybe some of those guys will get there, (but) they've got a long way to go to reach the standard he set."

The 43-year-old Yeo had a 173-132-44 record in five seasons as the coach of the Wild. He guided the Wild to three postseason appearances, including back-to-back trips to the second round in 2014 and 2015.

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"I feel terrible that I'm up here, but the one thing I can say is that every day I was there I had Hitch's back and I wanted to win," Yeo told reporters at the news conference. "I wanted to turn it around as assistant coach and that didn't happen. Now I have the task to do it as head coach.

"I know that I have a job to do, a very important job to do, and one I don't take lightly. None of us are satisfied or can be satisfied with where we're at right now. We all have to dig deeper than we have."

Prior to his stint in Minnesota, Yeo spent one season as head coach of the American Hockey League's Houston Aeros, where he led the club to the 2011 Calder Cup Final. He also spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins, including when the team won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

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