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Evaluation of Hitchcock

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Old
11-14-2011, 11:57 AM
  #1
2 Minute Minor
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Evaluation of Hitchcock

I realize its too early to glean much, but I had some early thoughts and wanted to create a thread for us to discuss impressions of Hitchcock's coaching.

Early concerns over the team turning into a "boring trap" have been numerous, but I have seen zero evidence on the ice that this is going to occur.

RATHER, I've heard players/coaches emphasize quick transitions to the offense by playing tight defense and looking to get the skates churning toward the red line immediately. The Tampa game was a great example of this. Their 1-3-1 was virtually nullified as it rarely had a chance to set up. The Blues dominated play in their zone the majority of the game....against a team with elite offensive talent that rarely had extended times of puck possession to generate threatening chances.

I've continued to see effective forays from the defensemen (Pietro, Shattenkirk, Cola, even Polak and Jackman) into the offensive zone. Many good chances have been generated this way. Now, the trade for Russel appears to emphasize this ability even more....adding another defenseman with speed who can chip in and help maintain offensive zone possession with movement (rather than standing at the blueline waiting to kick the ball back into play).

I'm a fan of the pace. The last 3 games have been an exciting brand of hockey, but without trading defensive liability to allow offensive chances.

Mark me down as a fan of the Hitchcock hire. I was sad to see Payne let go, and feel he's going to be a successful guy in the league. But Hitchcock's acumen is undeniable. The team appears to have all the pieces to be successful NOW. I'm really not sure what the ceiling is for this season....but I can't remember a time when I was more excited for the Blues.

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11-14-2011, 12:12 PM
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2 minute,agreed. This team just looks more confident under Hitchcock. Although all home games under Hitchcock the team has been very impressive against three tough teams. Toronto was able to take advantage of a couple of questionable calls to score two 1rst period PP goals. The Blues have carried the play under Hitchcock. Tomorrow nights game will be another good test against the Wings.


Last edited by stlweir: 11-14-2011 at 01:48 PM. Reason: corrections
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11-14-2011, 12:35 PM
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Playing Detroit will definitely be a good test since the theory behind Hitchcock's system is using the puck possession game they've taken to the Cup. Hopefully he can get some good match ups on size and speed and we get another solid win. As long as Elliot stays this hot we just have to finish chances and stay out of the penalty box.

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11-14-2011, 12:58 PM
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I still feel bad for Payne but this was a great move by Armstrong. This team needed a wake up call before they fell to far down in the standings. At first I was iffy about Hitchcock but after seeing his confidence the press conference I had a good feeling about the changes he has made to his coaching strategies. We look more organized and motivated than we have in yrs. Hopefully we keep it up.

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11-14-2011, 01:28 PM
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When Tony retired, I was joking with people about him taking over The Blues. My point was they needed to play hard for 60 minutes. But I agree the fast pace and the offensive contribution from the defenseman reminds me of how well they were playing at the end of last year.

I had also noticed this team was pressing, now they're just much more relaxed.

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11-14-2011, 01:37 PM
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I also have to say that I think the Blues are playing much more inspired hockey under Hitchcock. I really think that Payne has a bright future as a nhl coach, but the Blues started off inconsistent this season. Sometimes they looked good, other times they just looked flat. I think making the coaching change has lit a fire under their butts, even Halak has looked more focused in his two games while Elliot has played outstanding in all of his starts. I remember a lot of people on the other forums questioning the Elliot acquisition, but he looks alot better than our other backup options at this point.

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11-14-2011, 02:06 PM
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Hitchcock has definitely gotten them to a great start. If he can keep them playing like this without wearing them out physically or mentally, this team will make the playoffs.

Hitchcock preaches hard work, keeping the pressure going constantly. I think the Blues' roster is very advantageous to this approach, because they have four balanced scoring lines and can take it to the opponent continuously.

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11-14-2011, 09:11 PM
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The fact is it's too early to say anything about Hitchcock. It was too early this season to say anything about Payne.

The Blues have played great the past three games, but the only reason to think it's because of Hitchcock is that most teams in professional sports experience a jump in winning percentage for about half a season or so after hiring a new coach, probably because the players are more motivated to perform for him. We saw this happen with Payne, we've seen it with Murray.

I've read some people on other forums praising Hitchcock's "system", but the man himself said that he wouldn't be making any changes because it's simply too late in the season to do so. Payne's system was never the problem either, it was just the effort level the players were putting in and something most people never want to discuss - luck.

Sure, a few adjustments may do Hitchcock credit, like some power play formations, etc, but the real difference between the team right now and the team under Payne isn't anything to do with system, its just the compete level of the players. Maybe that's because Payne was a poor motivator (and he himself said something to the effect that he had to learn how to do that better), maybe its because Hitchcock's a good motivator. Who knows.

I'd hope that Hitchock doesn't meddle in future seasons, because during Payne's tenure the Blues have always put up amazing even strength shot totals for and against, and when the Blues compete like they have the last three games using that system, they are able to dominate anyone in the league.

I really hope that the Blues find a way to retain Payne, let him learn some of how to control personalities under Hitchcock, and maybe have him become a long-term coach for the Blues like they have rarely had in their history. Hitchcock may be a long-term guy, but he's also at an age where you don't know how much longer he'll be around.

I wasn't a fan of the coaching change not because I think Hitchcock was a bad coach, but because I feel that Payne got the blame for things that were mostly out of his control - Chris Stewart's shooting percentage, Halak's save percentage, etc. Hitchcock has benefited, and received credit for, some of those guys' natural regression to their career levels.

I'm not saying that Hitchcock is a bad coach, I think he's probably a good one. We just can't get too excited about him at this time. We Blues fans should remember, the same thing happened when we hired Murray and Payne, but where are they now?

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11-14-2011, 09:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oPlaiD View Post
The fact is it's too early to say anything about Hitchcock. It was too early this season to say anything about Payne.

The Blues have played great the past three games, but the only reason to think it's because of Hitchcock is that most teams in professional sports experience a jump in winning percentage for about half a season or so after hiring a new coach, probably because the players are more motivated to perform for him. We saw this happen with Payne, we've seen it with Murray.

I've read some people on other forums praising Hitchcock's "system", but the man himself said that he wouldn't be making any changes because it's simply too late in the season to do so. Payne's system was never the problem either, it was just the effort level the players were putting in and something most people never want to discuss - luck.

Sure, a few adjustments may do Hitchcock credit, like some power play formations, etc, but the real difference between the team right now and the team under Payne isn't anything to do with system, its just the compete level of the players. Maybe that's because Payne was a poor motivator (and he himself said something to the effect that he had to learn how to do that better), maybe its because Hitchcock's a good motivator. Who knows.

I'd hope that Hitchock doesn't meddle in future seasons, because during Payne's tenure the Blues have always put up amazing even strength shot totals for and against, and when the Blues compete like they have the last three games using that system, they are able to dominate anyone in the league.

I really hope that the Blues find a way to retain Payne, let him learn some of how to control personalities under Hitchcock, and maybe have him become a long-term coach for the Blues like they have rarely had in their history. Hitchcock may be a long-term guy, but he's also at an age where you don't know how much longer he'll be around.

I wasn't a fan of the coaching change not because I think Hitchcock was a bad coach, but because I feel that Payne got the blame for things that were mostly out of his control - Chris Stewart's shooting percentage, Halak's save percentage, etc. Hitchcock has benefited, and received credit for, some of those guys' natural regression to their career levels.

I'm not saying that Hitchcock is a bad coach, I think he's probably a good one. We just can't get too excited about him at this time. We Blues fans should remember, the same thing happened when we hired Murray and Payne, but where are they now?
It's too early to judge, but it's not too early to glean some interesting things. When the Blues played better under new coaches before, I saw improved effort, but now the Blues actually look different. It's not just a change in "compete level," but what appears to be a change in outlook or trust. They look more like a team than they have since the President's Trophy era. How much is the "coaching change effect," how much is coincidence, and how much is Hitchcock? We'll see.

I have basically no opinion on keeping Payne in the organization. If that's what management decides, then okay, I'll give it a chance. But it seems like a bad idea to bring him back as coach as long as the core remains intact. I've seen a few people suggest that they keep him on in some capacity, but I think that's more about a wish for a longer look and attachment to the idea that he was the new hope for the team than it is a good move for the organization.

I have no idea why you or anyone else would think that Hitchcock ever was a bad coach. He was great with Dallas and Philly; and Columbus was a bad team that drafted poorly and made terrible moves, but still overachieved under him and now they're in shambles in his absence.

I don't think Payne got the blame for Stewart's shooting percentage or Halak's save percentage. First, I think the move was about a chance to upgrade regardless of what was or wasn't Payne's fault. Plus, Hitchcock will push his players and make it clear to Armstrong who is expendable. Second, it wasn't just some little lucky things that were plaguing the Blues. They were not playing a cohesive team game and Payne had no answer. Some people cite the Blues' record as being just fine for a team that started the year with so many road games, but look at the standings. They have five of their last six points, but they're not making huge strides in the standings. Every team above them in the standings has a better road record and is playing just as well. So those are just excuses. At the end of the day, Payne had one thing to answer to: results. You can call it luck (in the face of evidence that it's not), but if that's all it is, there's no reason not to bring in someone who has better luck.

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11-14-2011, 09:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumrokh View Post
It's too early to judge, but it's not too early to glean some interesting things. When the Blues played better under new coaches before, I saw improved effort, but now the Blues actually look different. It's not just a change in "compete level," but what appears to be a change in outlook or trust. They look more like a team than they have since the President's Trophy era. How much is the "coaching change effect," how much is coincidence, and how much is Hitchcock? We'll see.

I have basically no opinion on keeping Payne in the organization. If that's what management decides, then okay, I'll give it a chance. But it seems like a bad idea to bring him back as coach as long as the core remains intact. I've seen a few people suggest that they keep him on in some capacity, but I think that's more about a wish for a longer look and attachment to the idea that he was the new hope for the team than it is a good move for the organization.

I have no idea why you or anyone else would think that Hitchcock ever was a bad coach. He was great with Dallas and Philly; and Columbus was a bad team that drafted poorly and made terrible moves, but still overachieved under him and now they're in shambles in his absence.

I don't think Payne got the blame for Stewart's shooting percentage or Halak's save percentage. First, I think the move was about a chance to upgrade regardless of what was or wasn't Payne's fault. Plus, Hitchcock will push his players and make it clear to Armstrong who is expendable. Second, it wasn't just some little lucky things that were plaguing the Blues. They were not playing a cohesive team game and Payne had no answer. Some people cite the Blues' record as being just fine for a team that started the year with so many road games, but look at the standings. They have five of their last six points, but they're not making huge strides in the standings. Every team above them in the standings has a better road record and is playing just as well. So those are just excuses. At the end of the day, Payne had one thing to answer to: results. You can call it luck (in the face of evidence that it's not), but if that's all it is, there's no reason not to bring in someone who has better luck.
Great post, agree with everything.

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11-15-2011, 12:07 AM
  #11
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You can't just blindly assume that Murray and Payne's presence behind the bench jump started the team. There was also the fact that the team got much healthier towards the end of the year when we fired Kitchen and Murray. Who couldn't compensate for injuries or confidence issues, and our goalies seem to get hot just in time for the final stretch every season. We also had a blockbuster trade that brought in Stewart and Shattenkirk who put up a serious scoring streak with little to no coaching from Payne needed. While moving out EJ who was abysmal on the point that year, and moving the team forward from the Eric Brewer era even though he really improved when healthy. Boyes was worthless when it came to having an opportunity to lead the team on the ice.

Our depth players pushed themselves harder than anyone because they were getting rewarded for it, meanwhile our younger guys seem stagnant or inconsistent as they had been all year. Many of them were recovering from injuries and had some new line mates with good speed and scoring threats to help platoon them. However Polak's injury managed to blow the whole year for him and now he's on the bottom pairing instead of being a shut-down duo.

Berglund reverted to the guy who doesn't use his body to force scoring chances and seems afraid to shoot as hard as he can once this new season started. Oshie was 9 or 10 games in before he remembered "going to the front of the net is where I get all my goals." The PK has slid back to the middle to the back of the league. The PP literally could not have been worse, and when you have Pietro, Shattenkirk, Coalaicovo and Steen on the blue line that just doesn't make sense especially considering we have guys like Backes, Stewart, Arnott, Grachev that could all have been holding down the crease and screening goalies.

There was a ton of room for the coaching to improve the team and being on the road doesn't have anything to do with focusing on playing better and not dissecting your opponent and trying to get the best match ups and role player assignments on each shift the way Murray and Payne seemed to fixate. We needed a coach who was focused on his own team succeeding because they're capable, not outplaying the opponent and using the "we're only thinking about this game, or the game after this one now that it's over" excuse.

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11-15-2011, 01:34 AM
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One thing that really would annoy me was how we were getting a lot of shots on goal, but not many goals. To me this was an obvious flaw in our gameplan. It's like the guy up in the 300 section who would always yell "SHOOT" when someone on the point would get the puck...except he was coaching.

All kidding aside, I like the idea of being a puck possesion team instead of a Chip n Skate, or Dump and Chase, or whatever else you wanna call it. Seems to me that most of our players are very good at hanging onto the puck and making good decisions, and protecting the puck if they hold on too long. A possesion game seems to suit them better. Plus the 2 games we have won under hitch have been been low shot totals. Seems like less quantity, but more quality.

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11-15-2011, 02:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Crazzzy View Post
One thing that really would annoy me was how we were getting a lot of shots on goal, but not many goals. To me this was an obvious flaw in our gameplan. It's like the guy up in the 300 section who would always yell "SHOOT" when someone on the point would get the puck...except he was coaching.

All kidding aside, I like the idea of being a puck possesion team instead of a Chip n Skate, or Dump and Chase, or whatever else you wanna call it. Seems to me that most of our players are very good at hanging onto the puck and making good decisions, and protecting the puck if they hold on too long. A possesion game seems to suit them better. Plus the 2 games we have won under hitch have been been low shot totals. Seems like less quantity, but more quality.
Well Hitch has said that he wants the team shooting in the high 30's and low 40's every game.

The change in the past few games isn't because of the shooting, it is simply because they are putting a full effort in for 60 minutes. I wouldn't say we have players that are great possession guys in the offensive zone, especially with McDonald and Perron out, but when the puck is in the offensive zone, our pressure has been relentless since Hitch has been coach. The harder you work, the more things will go your way and we are seeing that.

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11-15-2011, 03:56 AM
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Hitchcock has definitely gotten them to a great start. If he can keep them playing like this without wearing them out physically or mentally, this team will make the playoffs.

Hitchcock preaches hard work, keeping the pressure going constantly. I think the Blues' roster is very advantageous to this approach, because they have four balanced scoring lines and can take it to the opponent continuously.
And, because most of their legs are young. I can't wait until Perron returns to his old form.

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11-15-2011, 12:49 PM
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Well Hitch has said that he wants the team shooting in the high 30's and low 40's every game.

The change in the past few games isn't because of the shooting, it is simply because they are putting a full effort in for 60 minutes. I wouldn't say we have players that are great possession guys in the offensive zone, especially with McDonald and Perron out, but when the puck is in the offensive zone, our pressure has been relentless since Hitch has been coach. The harder you work, the more things will go your way and we are seeing that.
Very true, plus its a small sample size. I do think that Oshie, Sobo, Steen, and Pie are all great puck handlers, but Perron and McDonald are probabley our top two. Having them back would get those shot totals up as well (in addition to conditioning)

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11-15-2011, 12:53 PM
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Multiple people have made reference to quotes from Hitchcock implying that he won't change much (meaning the system), but that's not what I have heard in his quotes. I heard him say he wouldn't mess with the line combos (for now). Are there more specific quotes where he indicated that he'd keep Payne's system intact?

To me, I'm already seeing differences. We don't see three guys behind the net fore-checking any more. We see lighter pressure in the opponent's zone, and we see larger gaps with the forwards/defense allowing the forwards to transition faster to offense. Maybe that was exaggerated for the Lightning game to specifically counter their 1-3-1, but in my opinion I'm seeing some structure changes.

I freely admit I'm not a hockey coaching mind...and a lot of this detail is lost on me. But I have a different impression than what people seem to be quoting from Hitchcock, and I think the quote is being taken too far (and isn't what he was really saying).

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11-15-2011, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2 Minute Minor View Post
Multiple people have made reference to quotes from Hitchcock implying that he won't change much (meaning the system), but that's not what I have heard in his quotes. I heard him say he wouldn't mess with the line combos (for now). Are there more specific quotes where he indicated that he'd keep Payne's system intact?

To me, I'm already seeing differences. We don't see three guys behind the net fore-checking any more. We see lighter pressure in the opponent's zone, and we see larger gaps with the forwards/defense allowing the forwards to transition faster to offense. Maybe that was exaggerated for the Lightning game to specifically counter their 1-3-1, but in my opinion I'm seeing some structure changes.

I freely admit I'm not a hockey coaching mind...and a lot of this detail is lost on me. But I have a different impression than what people seem to be quoting from Hitchcock, and I think the quote is being taken too far (and isn't what he was really saying).
This I've also noticed, he also has at least one guy going to the front of the net consistently . He has them playing mentally tougher along with a better effort.

One other thing he has going for him, is he getting these guys at the right time a year or two before their prime. They have no more room for excuses, excuses are not going to be excepted any longer and it's their time to produce.

I've said this before Murray made these guys tougher even though they all didn't like him and now that they're couple years older they're starting to understand what it means to be a pro.

Only time will tell, but it does seem like it's starting to come together.

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11-16-2011, 05:00 PM
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Listening to 101.1 Randy said, that Jackman told him the key to the whole system is all three forwards committing to the back check.

Why is that so hard to understand, every good team does this? Every offensive play starts with a good defensive play, minus face-offs.

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11-16-2011, 05:49 PM
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Hitchcock said the Blues don't plan to recall a forward from Peoria. He is planning to put Evgeny Grachev in Stewart's spot on a line with center Patrik Berglund and right winger Matt D'Agostini.

Ryan Reaves, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday, would be inserted into the lineup in Stewart's spot.

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11-16-2011, 06:19 PM
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Hitchcock "Put in a 60 minute effort"

Larussa "Play a hard 9"

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11-16-2011, 06:23 PM
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Hitchcock said the Blues don't plan to recall a forward from Peoria. He is planning to put Evgeny Grachev in Stewart's spot on a line with center Patrik Berglund and right winger Matt D'Agostini.

Ryan Reaves, who was a healthy scratch Tuesday, would be inserted into the lineup in Stewart's spot.
(Reaves in Grachev's spot, I think you meant.)

That's fantastic news. Grachev has earned a chance like this, and I'm looking forward to seeing him get his first NHL goal this week.

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11-17-2011, 09:43 PM
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4-0-1, 4 GA in 5 games. My evaluation is St. Louis got one of the best coaches in the game and is reaping the benefits.

I had been screaming for the Islanders to go out and get this guy for a year and put some order into the circus we call a team. Naturally, Garth Snow chose an AHL moron instead.

Color me jealous. Enjoy playing in May and possibly June Blues fans.

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11-17-2011, 10:24 PM
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Hated the move at first, but then again, I hated the EJ trade at first too, so what do I know?

It's definitely night-and-day between Hitch and Payne. The team seems to have a clear gameplan these days and are ready to adjust to any team's style. Hitch clearly has one of the better minds in all of hockey.

The opposing fanbases won't agree, but the games have even been pretty fun to watch.

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11-17-2011, 10:25 PM
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I wasn't sure at first, but he's making me a believer. Hard to argue with the results so far, lets see if this level of play is kept up.

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11-17-2011, 11:25 PM
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Hated the move at first, but then again, I hated the EJ trade at first too, so what do I know?

It's definitely night-and-day between Hitch and Payne. The team seems to have a clear gameplan these days and are ready to adjust to any team's style. Hitch clearly has one of the better minds in all of hockey.

The opposing fanbases won't agree, but the games have even been pretty fun to watch.
Bolded for emphasis. That's why they're doing so well in the second and third periods. After Hitch sees the other team in the first, he knows exactly how to react.

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