Though Mike Keenan is long gone from the St. Louis Blues, that silly grin still hasn't left Brett Hull's face.
Hull is off to his fastest start in several seasons with five goals in four games, including his 28th career hat trick in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night. Guess whose absence gets the credit?"For 2 1/2 years it was so miserable to be around here, you lose your confidence," Hull said. "It's like I said before the season, it's time to put it into shooting mode again."
As coach and general manager of the Blues from July 1994 to December 1996, Keenan didn't just disassemble the team. He also rode herd on Hull, largely wasting the talent of one of the NHL's premier snipers by turning him into a two-way player.
Hull scored 86 goals, second-most in NHL history in 1990-91, and also has seasons of 72 and 70. He hasn't cleared 50 since 1993-94, when he had 57, but playing for new coach Joel Quenneville, Hull's shooting and smiling again.
"It's unbelievable," Hull said. "The excitement of being in an atmosphere where it's fun to play is tremendous. It just makes you feel alive."
Quenneville, who was hired last January, knows what a weapon Hull can be. He moved Hull to left wing due to a shortage of players on that side, and there was no grumbling, just more production.
"He's playing great," Quenneville said after Hull's hat trick. "He's battling along the boards, he's positionally strong and you would never know he's playing his off-wing.
"Jeez, he had it rolling tonight."
Hull said he's not the only one feeling liberated.
"Look at Joe Murphy, have you ever seen him play better?" Hull said. "His numbers aren't there yet, but Holy Cow, he could have 10 goals already."