Mike Yeo to take over as St. Louis Blues head coach in 2017

St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock opens up about where he sees himself now and after his one-year contract ends, says “I can’t see myself out of the game,” even after retiring from coaching.

A succession plan is in place.

With head coach Ken Hitchcock entering his final season behind the St. Louis Blues bench in 2016-17, the club has hired Mike Yeo to take over in 2017-18.

Yeo was hired as the club’s associate coach and Rick Wilson was hired as assistant coach, the Blues announced Monday, ending the search to replace former associate coach Brad Shaw and former assistant Kirk Muller (now with Montreal).

Assistant coach Ray Bennett, goalie coach Jim Corsi, and video coach Sean Ferrell will all return.

Yeo will take over as the club’s head coach in 2017-18 following the departure of Hitchcock, who wishes to remain involved in game in some capacity.

“We’re excited to have Mike Yeo join us an an associate coach for next season and to become the next head coach for the St. Louis Blues for three years after that,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “For being 42 years old, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, he’s taken an American League team to the final, and you saw the good job he did in Minnesota in taking that team to the second round. What excites me is his experience, but with his age, he can really relate to today’s players and it’s an exciting day for our team.”

Yeo, a native of North Bay, Ont., was also a candidate for the head coaching job in Ottawa, taken by Guy Boucher, and the vacant positions in Anaheim and Calgary.

“I feel really confident that the team and the franchise is going to be in great shape with Mike at the helm,” Hitchcock said.

The 42-year-old Yeo was fired mid-season by the Minnesota Wild. He went 173-132-44 with Minnesota and was the NHL’s third-youngest coach when he was fired by GM Chuck Fletcher on Feb. 13 after losing 13 of his last 14 games. It was his first time being fired in his career.

Days after leaving the Wild, Yeo told The Associated he wanted to right back behind the bench and believed he would have opportunities.

“I want to coach,” Yeo said. “That’s in my blood. That’s who I am, and I really believe my best days as a coach are ahead of me.

“Are there things I would do differently?” Yeo added. “Absolutely, and I’m fairly confident I will get a chance to do that.”

The 65-year-old Wilson, a former Blues defenceman, most recently worked under Yeo as an assistant with the Wild. He has been behind an NHL bench in various roles for the past 27 seasons, including stints as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders (1988-89), Los Angeles Kings (1989-92), Minnesota North Stars (1992-93) and Dallas Stars (1993-2002), where he captured a Stanley Cup in 1999 as part of Hitchcock’s staff.

“When you have success with someone, there’s a lot of confidence,” Hitchcock said of reuniting with Wilson. “I just feel like Rick has this aura about him that he can really get the defense to play with passion and an edge. I think that’s the next growth pattern for the group back there.

“We feel like we’ve got a great staff,” Hitchcock added. “It’s a staff that’s really connected to each other and sees the game in a similar fashion. For the future and for the present, we’re in terrific shape. We’ve got people that are teachers first and coaches second.

“I think it’s going to allow the players to grow more.”

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