A few weeks ago, Darryl Sutter laid out what he was looking for in a new assistant: "I’d prefer a (former) head coach. I’d prefer one from the Western Conference. I’d prefer guys that are young. I’d prefer guys that are really hands-on guys. And, quite honestly, I’d prefer if they were a better coach than me."
Former Blues coach Davis Payne fit the bill. Only 41 years old, he had been one of the youngest head coaches in the NHL, promoted from the Blues' AHL affiliate after Andy Murray was fired. After a 2010-11 season where the Blues were ravaged by injuries, his stint was cut short just thirteen games into the next, undermined in large part by shoddy goaltending. The quick hook might also have been due to the fact that he was not new GM Doug Armstrong's own hire.
We don't know if he's better than Sutter, but Payne is billed as a smart, analytical coach who becomes fully absorbed in his job.
Want a sample of how he analyzes the game? Back in April, in the beginning of Round 1, he had a lot to say about the Kings and their chances of knocking off Vancouver on TSN Radio. It's fun to go back and listen to him sum up his future club -- especially since he nails how dangerous they really were.
"LA was a team that, going into these playoffs, as things were shuffling out in the Pacific Division…LA was the one team that a lot of us were nodding our heads, saying, "They’ve got their act together, and this might be a tough first round matchup for anybody," whether it was St. Louis or Vancouver, or however it shuffled out.
They’ve got the ability to play the game in a number of different ways. They’re a big team – they’re a playoff style team. So throw out the regular season. They went through some changes and had to work to this point to kind of find themselves -- a big-bodied team with good goal-tending, a lot of experience on the back-end that can defend well.
If they’re able to keep the game close, it’s a matchup that I think Vancouver is really going to have to get to their A game [to beat]." -- Payne on TSN 1050
He goes on to sum the series up as, "It’s not an 8 versus 1, it’s two Western Conference teams going at it." Spot-on.
The entire segment is well worth a listen, as he breaks down every series in the West. Another interesting bit that comes up is that he thinks only 5 teams are a threat in the East.
This looks like a great hire to me. In any case, the Kings now have two former head coaches in the fold to act as younger liaisons between the Sutter and the players.
For more on Payne, he talks about his new job here:
Now, will he be able to craft a better power play?