Having worked with Ken Hitchcock at various times with Team Canada, Gretzky said he can't think of anybody in hockey "that eats, lives, sleeps and thinks about hockey as much or more" than the current Blues coach.
Gretzky wasn't sure the Blues would have as massive of a turnaround as they've had since Hitchcock took over for Davis Payne in early November, but he was certain that the 60-year-old coach would have an impact.
"You knew that he's too good of a hockey coach and has too good of a hockey mind," Gretzky said. "I'm not trying to compare anybody to Scotty Bowman, but you see guys like Scotty and Glen Sather and Toe Blake, guys that have won, Ken is just like them. He lives and dies with the game, and thinks each and every day about how he can make his team better, any strategy he can implement to make them a better squad."
Gretzky added Hitchcock's will to continuously learn about the game and the players has also benefitted St. Louis, which is currently fourth in the Western Conference and four points behind the first-place Red Wings.
"He was part of two gold medals for Team Canada, he's coached in World Championships and coached a Stanley Cup team, but Gordie Howe once told me you never stop learning about the game," Gretzky said. "Ken feels the same way. He's always learning about the game and about players and people, and to a man the players in St. Louis will tell you that he has really turned that franchise around. He's taken them to another level and they've been exceptional. They play hard and smart hockey, and they're going to be a contender in the playoffs because they play playoff hockey each and every night."