Ken Hitchcock has one more go-around in him, and we now know that 2016-17 will be the coach’s final season as a bench boss in the NHL. The St. Louis Blues re-signed the veteran to a one-year deal, and while Hitchcock stressed that he didn’t know if he’s retiring from the game entirely, he says it’ll be his final year coaching.
During the year-end press conference, he told members the press the following:
“I’m not coaching after this year. I don’t know if I’m going to retire… If I’m not going to get better in the offseason, I’m doing a disservice. I’m ready to go for next year. I’m excited. This is an unbelievable group of guys with a lot of potential.”
It will be his 21st year behind the bench of an NHL team, but the Blues are now aware of the fact they they’ll need a new coach for the 2017-18 season. It’s impossible to know how how things will shake out in the coming months–who knows what sort of free agents could be available by this time next year–but it sounds like Kirk Muller has the inside edge on the job once it becomes vacant.
The hangup could be that the team offered Hitchcock’s assistants–including Muller–one-year extensions as well. This has already caused longtime assistant Brad Shaw to move on, and Jeremy Rutherford of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates that Muller could decide to take his talents elsewhere too.
It sounds like there’s an interesting dynamic going on behind closed doors in St. Louis. Rutherford said that his sources indicated that Muller was also looking for more term than a one-year deal, even with the carrot of being the team’s next coach hanging in front of his face. General manager Doug Armstrong has said that he intends to speak with Muller at length and says that they would need to “hash through” a lot of things before the head coaching job became a reality.
UPDATE: Muller has reportedly decided to move on and won’t be returning to the Blues next season.