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Proven Winner Hitchcock Takes The Helm In St. Louis
Speculation inside hockey circles was that if Ken Hitchcock was going to make a return behind the bench it would likely be with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Instead, Hitchcock was chosen by St. Louis Blues' General Manager Doug Armstrong to replace outgoing head coach Davis Payne after thirteen games into the 2011-12 season.

What Hitchcock brings to St. Louis is a reputation of leading multiple NHL franchises into the playoffs. He enjoyed tremendous successes while employed by the Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers where he collectively won six division titles. In Columbus, Hitchcock guided the Blue Jackets to their first ever playoff appearance in team history.

Hitchcock enjoyed his most triumphant years in Dallas where he helped mold the Stars into a Western Conference force. Over a five-year stretch, Hitchcock won five consecutive division titles, led the Stars to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances and captured the 1999 Stanley Cup. During that span, he relied upon a young American forward who possessed uncommon maturity for his age and a flair for scoring dramatic playoff goals.

That forward of course was Jamie Langenbrunner who thrived in a number of roles in Dallas. Hitchcock felt equally comfortable using Jamie on the power-play, penalty kill, top scoring lines or using his physicality on the checking lines. After being traded to New Jersey in 2002, Langenbrunner went on to become an integral member of the Devils. Hitchcock also moved east to coach the Flyers and was often pitted against his former pupil.

After facing each other in countless regular season and playoff battles, Hitchcock and Langenbrunner are finally reunited in St. Louis. Everything has come full circle for Armstrong, Hitchcock, Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott. Armstrong operated as Assistant General Manager in Dallas while Hitchcock served as head coach. He also pulled the trigger on the noteworthy deal that sent Langenbrunner to New Jersey while receiving Arnott in return.

Today, Langenbrunner and Arnott are the kind of veterans that Hitchcock can lean on to deliver steady production. It will be up to Hitchcock to mold a talented and youthful Blues' roster into a winning one just as he did when he took charge of the Stars in 1996.

Langenbrunner told us, "I like Payne. Getting replaced was at no fault of his own. He'll have a good coaching future. Hitchcock has seen pretty much everything. He brings a lot of hockey knowledge and experience. Hitchcock is a guy that I learned a lot from in Dallas."

There is a great deal of potential throughout the Blues' organization and Hitchcock's track record shows that he has what it takes to get the most out of present stars at the NHL level and emerging talents ready to soak up his wisdom.

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