With Ken Hitchcock having been dispatched by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the question remains: What’s next for the Edmonton, Alberta native?
The immediate answer is the Olympics. But as far as a future coaching position in the NHL, the answer isn’t so clear.
“My focus right now is obviously on the Olympics,” Hitchcock said in a press conference last Thursday.
Hitchcock will join Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s staff coaching the Canadian team. The Olympics in Vancouver will be Hitchcock’s third stint with the Canadian team, having coached them in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2006 and Nagano, Japan, in 2002.
Following the Olympics, there’s no doubt teams will be interested in Hitchcock’s services. The stoic 58-year-old has 500 career wins as an NHL coach. Hitchcock has also led three teams to the playoffs, including a Stanley Cup Championship in 1999, when he was coaching Dallas.
However, Hitchcock isn’t sure he’ll jump back into coaching, as he did after being fired twice previously.
After being let go by Dallas, Hitchcock immediately joined forces with the Philadelphia Flyers. And similarly, when he was cut loose by the Flyers, he was quickly picked up by the Jackets. But this time around the veteran Hitchcock says it might be different.
“I’m not going to jump at the first job opportunity,” Hitchcock said. He went on to explain that he’s been in almost every coaching situation, from Stanley Cup contenders to teams building from the ground up. This time, Hitchcock says, the scenario would have to be perfect.
“I think if it’s the right situation I would like to look at it,” Hitchcock said. But he also said he’s not rushing into anything, due in part to his connection to the Blue Jackets organization.
“I feel a very personal obligation to the McConnell family and [Jackets president] Mike Priest,” Hitchcock said. “I have a contractual obligation, but it goes beyond that with Mike and myself. I feel like I started something here.”
Hitchcock’s contract runs through 2011-2012, during which time he is due $1.33 million per year. But as he said, his ties are deeper than that. It’s believed Blue Jackets management will look to retain Hitchcock as an adviser if he doesn’t find work elsewhere this season. While that might create an awkward situation for all involved, a management position might be appealing to Hitchcock.
“The next move I’d like to make is an organizational one,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t want to just be a coach. I’d like a long-term relationship.”