The rumors are true. Jeremy Rutherford confirms that Jaroslav Halak and Ken Hitchcock had a "heated disagreement" prior to Game 4 in Los Angeles. The argument took place outside of the team's locker room and was evidently started due to the fact Halak was late for a team meeting. Halak argued with Hitchcock about his lack of playing time at the end of the regular season.
Suspicions were raised about Halak's attitude in Game 2 when Brian Elliott appeared to suffer a leg injury. As Elliott tried to collect himself on the ice, Halak remained motionless on the bench. Normally, the backup would start stretching and getting ready in case the starter has to be pulled. Halak was a statue, rooted to his spot on the bench. Fans noticed. So too did team personnel as it was "discussed for several days within the organization," according to Rutherford.
What should we make of this whole situation?
Halak was angry that when he returned to full health after his most recent groin injury the team decided to continue to ride Brian Elliott. Specifically, he apparently felt he deserved to start in the team's final regular season game against the Chicago Blackhawks as preparation for the playoffs. The Blues instead used Elliott with home-ice advantage on the line.
Does Halak have a reasonable argument here? Yes and no. It's understandable that the goaltender wanted some playing time. As a matter a fact, it'd be worse if he didn't want playing time. However, given the situation, it's really no surprise the Blues used Elliott given how well he was performing and considering something as valuable as starting the playoffs at home was on the line. Halak has every right to be frustrated, but this hardly seems like a situation worth having a "heated disagreement" over.
Meanwhile, Halak's actions – or lack of action – when Elliott went down in Game 2 are worth arguing over. You can be upset about playing time, but you better still support your team and support your teammates. With Elliott looking like he may need to leave the game, Halak refusing to move was a bad sign. It indicates that he's more concerned about his own agenda rather than the greater good of the team. Reports indicate he's been lackadaisical in practice, barely showing any interest. Halak arguing with Hitchcock about this matter shows he's frustrated (understandably), but it also shows that he's losing – or has lost – respect for team management.
Unfortunately, these situations usually don't end well. Halak's season was a frustrating one both for the goaltender and for fans, but how he's handled himself in the playoffs (not stretching, uninterested in practice, late to a meeting) could be the beginning of the end of his time with St. Louis. Halak has one year left on his original four-year, $15 million contract. He's played some spectacular hockey at times, but at others he's left a lot to be desired. He's suffered several injuries over the last two years which is an alarming trend all on its own.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and Halak will accept his role with the team, regardless of what that role might be. If not, don't be surprised if the team makes drastic decision regarding Halak's future with the Blues.