Peoria’s Payne gets call to St. Louis

St. Louis Blues president John Davidson announced today that the club has named Rivermen head coach Davis Payne as interim head coach of the Blues.

Payne becomes the 22nd out of 30 current National Hockey League head coaches who previously served as a head coach in the American Hockey League, and the seventh in the last two-plus years to be promoted directly from AHL head coach to NHL head coach, following Bruce Boudreau, John Anderson, Scott Gordon, Cory Clouston, Dan Bylsma and Joe Sacco.

Payne replaces Andy Murray, who has been relieved of his duties.

“Davis is very knowledgeable of the players in our organization and we feel he is the best candidate to coach our team,” said Davidson.

“I would like to thank Andy Murray for the job he has done here the past four seasons,” continued Davidson. “He was an integral part in turning the St. Louis Blues around. He is a true professional and I wish him the best of luck in the future.”

Payne, 39, was named head coach of the Rivermen on July 8, 2008, after serving one year as an assistant with the club. This season, Peoria has posted a 19-13-1-2 record, combining for a 62-44-3-6 (.578) overall mark in two seasons with Payne behind the bench.

In his first year (2008-09) as an AHL head coach, Payne guided the Rivermen to a 43-31-2-4 record and returned Peoria to the postseason following a two-year drought.

Prior to joining the Rivermen before the 2007-08 campaign, Payne had spent a total of seven seasons as a head coach in the ECHL. The Kamloops, B.C., native established a .691 winning percentage over four years as head coach for the Alaska Aces, the Blues’ ECHL affiliate.

The 2006-07 ECHL Coach of the Year, Payne led the Aces to the 2006 ECHL Kelly Cup championship and also guided the club to three consecutive trips to the conference finals.

A graduate of Michigan Tech, Payne appeared in 22 National Hockey League (NHL) games with the Boston Bruins and played a total of eight professional seasons. He was originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.