There are multiple reports tonight, confirmed by Aaron Portzline, that the St. Louis Blues have fired head coach Davis Payne and replaced him with former Jackets head coach and current "advisor" Ken Hitchcock.
Obviously this removes the option of returning Hitch to the bench in Columbus, a concept that many found problematic at best, but also marks a bit of a nightmare scenario - who worse to take over for a division opponent than a coach who has intimate knowledge of your current strengths and weaknesses?
The first firing of the season, this was an extremely unexpected move. St. Louis is in 13th place in the West, yes, but at 6-7-0 are only three points out of playoff contention. It feels like something of a knee jerk reaction to try and force the somewhat underperforming team to succeed.
Was this move a called shot from incoming owner Matthew Hulsizer? Was the move executed in part because they had an interest in Hitch and were afraid of "losing" him after the Dispatch report?
It's a very interesting set of questions - and sadly, we're unlikely to get answers any time soon.
It will also be interesting to see how this affects Scott Arniel - if he truly felt his job was in jeopardy from Hitch, perhaps this will let him loosen up. If the team was willing to take it slow because they felt they had a built in "Plan B", one wonders if this could tip their hand.
On the positive side, that much more fuel was just poured on to the rivalry fire...