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Payne Just Makes Sense

by Jeff Ponder

No Payne; no gain may be the Blues' motto going into 2010-11.

Yes, let the Davis Payne name wordplay continue with Blues fans for at least another two years. It was announced last week that Payne will remain the Blues' head coach through the Spring of 2012.

“Davis did an outstanding job for us and earned the opportunity to be a permanent head coach in the National Hockey League for our club,” Blues President John Davidson said last Wednesday, “We did a lot of research over the 42 games that Davis coached, and the categories all went in the proper direction.

He's a young coach, yet he does have a great deal of experience in the different facets of the game itself. He's a coach we're excited about keeping us going in the same direction as the final 42 games of the regular season.”

Payne took over the head coaching reigns in St. Louis after the club decided to let former head coach Andy Murray walk on January 2. The Blues were a dismal 6-13-3 at home at the point, and were far out of the playoff picture looking in. Payne improved the Blues at home, as they went 12-5-2 under Payne, including 15 wins in the team's final 23 games and the final six at home. Payne's overall NHL coaching record stands at 23-15-4.

Certain players seemed to improve under Payne, as captain Eric Brewer went from a -10 with two goals under Murray to a -7 with six goals scored with Payne as his coach. Alex Steen also exploded with Payne behind the bench, scoring 17 goals (after only scoring 7 goals with Murray).

The biggest reason to bring back Payne involves the pocketbook. The team is obligated to pay Murray's contract through 2010-11, and they could not seemingly afford to bring in another high-priced coach. With names like Rick Tocchet and John Tortorella being thrown around as possible unemployed coaches this summer (Tocchet being already released by Tampa Bay), it just made sense to go with the younger coach and give him another shot at coaching the young Blues team at a discounted rate.

Doug Armstrong, who will take over for Larry Pleau as General Manager of the Blues this summer, had only encouraging words for the Blues' new head coach.

“When he arrived here, his job interview started, and I think he did an excellent job... Our veteran players respected him, listened to him, our younger players grew under him. Davis and I share a lot of the same philosophies on how to build a winning team, what it takes to win and we are going to do this the right way.”

With Pleau on his way out and Murray being out of the St. Louis team's future plans, Armstrong hopes that he and Payne will be the answer for the Blues to make a strong playoff push.

Hopefully that push goes a little longer than four-and-out.

Thoughts to Ponder: Rumors are still swirling over what the Blues will do for a starting goaltender. Marty Turco has been released by the Stars and Evgeni Nabokov looks like he may be buying a plane ticket after his poor playoff performance thus far in San Jose. Don't be surprised if one of these goalies are considered by Armstrong, or even if talks are elevated with Vancouver about the availability of 24 year-old Cory Schneider... Ilya Kovalchuk has not been too strong for the Devils so far since being dealt February 5. He did have 27 points in 27 games for his new club, but his selfish play and one goal to show for it in the first three games of the Stanley Cup playoffs are not something to be desired by Lou Lamoriello and Devils management. He will most likely not be brought back due to his high price-tag and lack of defensive effort on a highly defensive roster. But don't expect the Blues to be a top-runner for his services either. Looks at Joe Pavelski of San Jose and Nicklas Backstrom of Washington may be more realistic. Both are RFAs but may be worth the risk for the offensive numbers they can produce.

Stay tuned in with Jeff Ponder's BluesNetMix blog by checking in every Tuesday at bluesnetmix.com.


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