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  • Kitchen stresses pride, passion in first practice

    Kitchen stresses pride, passion in first practice
    By Derrick Goold
    Post-Dispatch
    02/25/2004

    Blues coach Mike Kitchen took the ice at St. Louis Mills Wednesday at 11 a.m. sharp - minutes after imploring his team to play with more "pride" at all times - to conduct his first practice as a head coach.

    Most of the drills were the same as ever, but it took only one mistake for the Blues to notice a difference.

    One sloppy pass, especially to start the drill, and Kitchen would start the drill over. A few players had to do a drill eight or so times before Coach Kitch would move on through his 65-minute practice. Often, Kitchen stopped the practice to take the Blues to the boards for a refresher course. And once he took them into the corner to demonstrate perhaps the biggest tinker Kitchen made in his first day: why stick check when you can body check?

    "There was a little less flow in our practice," said Kitchen, who replaced Joel Quenneville as Blues coach Tuesday and was immediately signed to a contract through the 2005-06 season. "It was a matter of showing them, just to make sure they understand a few of the things ... I wanted to relate to them why we do it, how it relates to game situations.

    "It's an emotional day."

    Kitchen, the 20th coach in Blues history, will make his debut tonight against Colorado at the Pepsi Center. Blues coaches are 10-8-1 in their debuts. Kitchen, who made his NHL debut with the Colorado Rockies, comes from the same coaching school as Quenneville and said there probably won't be big changes - because there's no time and no need.

    Still, he took the opportunity to grab the team's attention.

    A strict tone of swift accountability followed Quenneville's firing. Kitchen is an eager administrator.

    "This was the moment (to teach and hammer home places to improve) because they're all ears right now," Kitchen said. "They're basically like sponges. Whatever you get across to them now (after their coach has been fired), this is the time to do it. They will listen."

    Kitchen arrived at the Blues' practice rink at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, earlier than he normally arrives at work. A tireless scout of opponents, Kitchen usually watches tape at home before arriving at the rink. He skipped the homework Wednesday and went straight to finalizing his practice plan.

    And thinking about what he was going to say to his team.

    General manager Larry Pleau met with the team first, followed by Kitchen. There was no need for an introduction, of course. Kitchen was in his sixth season as a Blues assistant coach when he was named to the top job. But it was Kitchen's chance to start defining his team.

    "He told us we have to start playing with a little more passion," defenseman Jeff Finley said. "A little more pride in the jersey, a little more pride in the team, a little more from all of our performances. Bottom line, he told us we have to be better and we have to realize what has happened here."

    Said Kitchen: "There are players who have had plenty of opportunity and maybe not done enough with it."

    Kitchen has kept the lines in place that Quenneville had most recently utilized. Pavol Demitra centered Keith Tkachuk and Scott Mellanby at Wednesday's practice. Doug Weight was between Dallas Drake and Eric Boguniecki. Center Petr Cajanek and wingers Pascal Rheaume and Mark Rycroft made up the third line and center Jamal Mayers and wingers Mike Danton and Reed Low were the fourth.

    Many of the defensive pairings also remained the same, with Matt Walker in the lineup and Finley likely out.

    Chris Osgood, Kitchen said, is his starting goalie tonight and for as long as he proves he's deserving.

    The new head coach was visibly active when the Blues skated into the heart of his first practice. Always an eager participant in drills, Kitchen was in close, conducting, urging. When a drill started off slowly or a poor pass or poor decision was made, Kitchen would call the players back and have the whole thing start over. The first few times, he was met with stares and then understanding.

    "I want more attention to detail," Kitchen said. "We should take pride in that first pass. Sometimes you take things like that for granted. You have to stay focused in practice and things will carry over into the game."

    He did stress one specific change: Physical play in the defensive zone. Too often in recent months the Blues have gone into corners using their sticks. Kitchen took the team to the corner and showed them how he wants the opponent pinned first and the puck played. He thinks they could be more punishing, instead of prodding.

    "We've had the tendency to do a lot of stick-checking," he said. "It's something we kept addressing and addressing. ... We want to be more physical, especially going into the puck area - pinning the man and having our support man a little more active and closer to the puck."

    Kitchen did the rest by how he felt as he went along.

    He thought about what he was going to say to the team, but eventually he spoke from the heart, especially when it came to taking "pride" in the sweater.

    "Things pop into your head what you're going to say to the team, what drill you're going to use," Kitchen said. "It's the moment. You're coaching through the moment."

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  • #2
    Poorly written, but he's holding them accountable....

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

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    • #3
      Originally posted by 007@Feb 26 2004, 01:22 AM
      Poorly written, but he's holding them accountable....
      ... and that's all that I want him to do...

      I think Quenneville just got comfortable with his station in life and didn't try to improve it. I hope Kitchen puts these guys though the fucking wringer....

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