In April last year Davis Payne was made the full time Head Coach. He had already been in the job as interim Head Coach for four months and made an impressive start. It was enough to convince Blues President John Davidson that he was the right man for the job.
Payne’s strength lies in his man management skill. His is able to coax good performances out of his squad and has an ability to organize well.
Some may perceive his lack of NHL experience as a player as a weakness. He was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round of the 1989 draft, the 140th overall pick. He then went on to make 22 NHL appearances for the Boston Bruins.
The bulk of his playing career was spent outside the NHL with spells in the ECHL, AHL and the IHL. This lack of NHL experience doesn’t seem to affect his ability to coach his team at this level at all. He is tactically knowledgeable and his teams are always well drilled.
Payne is the youngest NHL Head Coach and at just 39 he is not much older than some players. His coaching career so far has been impressive.
He got off to a good start in 2000 when he took over at the Pee Dee Pride in the ECHL. He coached 3 seasons reaching the play-offs every time and ended with a regular season record of 104–67–17. Payne then moved to the Alaska Aces and coached there between 2003 and 2007, again he lead the squad to qualify for every end of season play-off. His time at the Ace’s ended with a regular season record of 185–75–28. Payne was one of only two coaches to lead a team to two consecutive plus 100 point seasons. In 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. In his time with the Ace’s he won the Brabham Cup and the Kelly Cup. Payne was named the ECHL Coach of the year in 2006-2007.
Payne’s excellent record coaching in the ECHL lead to the opportunity to coach the Blues AHL affiliate the Peoria Rivermen. He began in 2008 and remained there until his promotion to the Blues interim position after Andy Murray was relieved of the position. His time at the Rivermen ended with a 62–44–9 record.
His record as a coach in the NHL so far has been impressive. Having just missed the play-offs on two occasions now, qualifying for the end of season games has to be his main goal this season.
Going forward it seems that the Blues plan has been to add Championship winning experience to the roster. They started last season very well with a franchise best 9-1-2 but after injuries to key men the performance level dropped to end the season 38-33-11 and in 11th place, just outside the play-offs. The new additions should prevent a repeat of that this year.
The new additions have a combined four Stanley cup championships so they certainly know what needs to be done to reach the play-offs and even win them. That experience should be very useful for the Blues this year.