Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A new lease on Washington

A new lease on life.

Sadly, that's not the reaction coming from Chris Clark or Milan Jurcina upon arriving with the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Their reaction is shock and caution.  In fact, Clark was pretty blunt about his feelings on the trade to Columbus:
"I didn't mind a diminished role [in Washington] because we were winning so much and we're such a great team and had a chance to do something in the playoffs," Clark said. "I would have taken any role on this team to do that. But now I'm going to start all over again. Hopefully Columbus will be in that position in a few years."

"It's going to be tough, but I've been in this situation before," Clark added. "Hopefully I can help out in any way I can."
No, that reaction is coming from Jason Chimera, via the Washington Post.
Jason clearly has gotten over the sadness of being traded:
"No slight to Sammy Pahlsson and Freddy Modin," Chimera said, referring to his most recent linemates with the Columbus Blue Jackets. "They're great players. But Backstrom and Semin bring a whole new level to the game. Just their patience with the puck is unbelievable. Should be fun. Hopefully I don't go offside too much."

"It's a great opportunity with a good team, so it's like a new lease on life," said Chimera, who is 6 feet 2, 216 pounds and one of the game's fastest skaters. "You can tell from the atmosphere that everyone wants to win."
So many mixed emotions from this article. I'm genuinely happy for Jason, a class act and fierce warrior who deserves by his deeds on and off the ice to hoist the Stanley Cup.  And he even gets to skate on Washington's second line - a testament to his promise.

At the same time, I'm aghast that he's already picked up on the change in atmosphere of being in a winning locker room.  The obvious implication is that the Blue Jackets don't have one yet.

The subtext of Chimera's comment is that the Jackets, through their organizational culture, could be letting good talent waste away.  Not that they'd know.  Their practices are largely optional.  Today's optional practice, for example, had the following participants:
  • Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon - Probably prodded at least in part by the "Win and You're In" edict
  • Mike Commodore - Got scratched last night...maybe wants to work on his game a tad
  • Mathieu Roy - The new-ish defenseman who probably is still a bit scared at having to be a top defender against the NHL's best
  • Derick Brassard - A self-professed rink rat who is trying desperately to find his game
  • Chris Clark - Who wants to learn some names and faces, not to mention pick up the Hitch system so he can contribute
  • Jared Boll, Alexandre Picard, Andrew Murray and Michael Blunden - The bubble players, all scared to death that they're going to get bumped down to Syracuse.  (Oops, Blunden got bumped.)
And that's it.  Keeping that roster in mind, take this imaginary first day in Columbus for Chris Clark, courtesy of "rizzo2" in the Puck Rakers blog comments:
Poor Clark, I feel sorry for the guy in a way. His career is winding down, gets traded from a Cup contender to a basement dweller. Now he sees how we roll here in Jackets land. Here is how I imagine things went down this morning when Clark walked into Hitch's office:

Clark - hey coach where is everyone for practice?

Hitch - it's an optional today, guys need maintenance days you know.

awkward silence follows...

Clark - I don't want to over-step my bounds being the new guy and all, but don't we have some kinks to work out if we're going to win 65% of our remaining games?

Hitch (as face reddens) - Like I said today is optional. Why don't you jump on a stationary bike or something, I've got film to watch here.

Clark walks away with a dazed look on his face. Get that man some uppers STAT. He's going to need them.
I'm scared to think that this scenario has more truth to it than many would care to believe.

I'll again quote Shakespeare: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."  This has to change, and quick.  I'm not interested in seeing our talent get new leases on life in other locales, and neither should the Columbus Blue Jackets.

[UPDATE: Chimera got an assist in his first game with the Capitals, against the Sharks. 11:22 time on ice, punctuated by some incredible defensive play.]


  1. Sadly its true... We have 2 new guys and a big game too night at Nationwide arena, there should be a sell out croud and they have no idea what Hitch is all about. Neither of the new guys do. and i agree with you the only reason Mase and Mattie were a practice was too determine who is going too play, but i mean i wasnt there so i cant say its true. But not having a full practice when they "dont get too practice a lot and then blame it on that fact" and lose on that fact makes me mad. They need too have a full practice get everyone familare with the new additaions too our suffering team wouldnt be a bad idea. I mean i dont wont to tell Hitch how too run his team but seriously.

  2. If it were my time I would require the players to attend every practice. This is not the time for "optional" practices. When a team can't successfully complete passes then that's a sign there isn't near enough practice let alone drive... That's disappointing to know that more than half the players don't even want to come to an optional practice... If my team was frequently losing the first thing I would do would be go to practice... Hello it's your job... if I sucked at my job I would try harder to get better, not just be lazy!

  3. Good points, you two. It's not always mandatory to smack the stuffing out of each other in practice, but these guys CAN work on conditioning and timing/chemistry if they're on the ice. Problem is, Hitch apparently takes a philosophy of meetings first (and often and long) and ice time second (and short). Not sure that such an approach is ideal for a young team that is trying to figure itself out.

  4. It will be great to watch Columbus Blue Jackets, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.


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