Saturday, January 2, 2010

The clock is ticking

I don't want to write this post, but to avoid it would be to stick my head in the sand.  I wrote on December 16 that Ken Hitchcock's honeymoon as coach of the CBJ is over.  Nothing has improved in terms of wins and losses since that point, so we need to revisit the situation.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the midst of the worst performance in their 10-ish year history.  They've lost 20 of 23.  They've won 3 games outright (including overtimes) since November 19.  This isn't bad, it's garish.

That's not to say all is impossibly lost.  The on-ice performance is improving, slowly - especially since Hitch told his goalies (in front of the team) that the only way that they're going to play is by winning the prior game.  GM Scott Howson traded Jason Chimera away to get Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina; it's only been three games, so I will withhold judgement on the trade.  They're playing well enough to win, but they're making the key mistakes, missing the shots...just enough to lose.  And lose they have.

[The team got t-shirts three days ago that say, "It Starts Now."  I'm not even going to try to editorialize about that.]

The streak is killing Ken Hitchcock.  You can see the ulcers forming while he stands behind the bench.  His postgame pressers are downright painful to watch.  Someone posted that they thought he was going to cry tonight.  He's out of cliches and lost his sense of humor about ten games ago.

The underachieving Philadelphia Flyers canned their coach on December 4, and new coach Peter Laviolette put things back in order to the point to take the Boston Bruins to overtime in the Winter Classic.  The St. Louis Blues fired Andy Murray today - Murray was hired roughly at the same time as Hitch - and promoted their AHL coach in the hopes that the new guy can do for the Blues what the young Dan Bylsma has done for the Penguins, what the young Joe Sacco has done for Colorado, what the young Todd Richards slowly is doing for Minnesota.

The obvious question on the table is, "Should the Jackets cut the cord with Hitch?"  Believe it or not, I'm still not there yet.  I'm not ready to say that Hitch must go.

I don't care about Hitch's pedigree at this point, but I'm not sure there's a better option out there right now.  I was thinking that Howson's coach from his days as Edmonton's Assistant General Manager, Craig MacTavish, would be a logical choice...but he kinda tanked toward the end in Edmonton and then did nothing to help himself by coaching Team Canada in the Spengler Cup.  There are other coaches out there, but you have to always ask, "Could they do better than Hitch?"  [UPDATE: Thanks to Twitter's @nhlcyclesophist, we have a list of possible candidates.  Of course, Laviolette's out of the mix, but everyone else is worth considering.]

The team HAS shown improvement.  Enough?  I guess not.  But I am liking what I'm seeing over the past 2-3 games - whatever I've been able to see.  Still, the team's performance is trending upward.  Considering my feeling that there probably isn't a better obvious choice out there, I'll roll the dice for a little while longer.

Regardless of my personal feelings, the real question should be, "How long will the Jackets be patient?"  When you want to make changes, you fire players (trade, fire sale, demotions to the AHL) or fire the coach.  I'm guessing that, with all of the extensions that Howson's delivered in the past year, the team is staying.  So how long will the coach stick around?

I really don't know the answer, but I do know that the clock is ticking.


  1. Not exactly a courageous stance. If you don't know how you feel one way or the other by now, don't bother writing about it. Ownership is not committed to winning. Don't listen to what they're saying, look at what they're doing, which is nothing, to stem the tide of losing. The team is on a crash course for disaster financially after this debacle of a season.

  2. I'm not for change for the sake of change. I'm for change for the sake of improvement. If there's no better coach out there than Hitch, why would you fire him?

    Sorry if I disappointed. It might not be what you wanted to see, but it's honestly where my mind is at.

    I would like to compliment your last sentence, as I, too, agree that the implications of this disappointing season have the potential to stretch far beyond the wins and losses.

  3. Your Friendly Pens FanJanuary 3, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    I understand your feelings DarkBlueJacket - I went through them about this time last year. I didn't dislike Michel Therrien, but the Pens were on a horrible skid. Horrible. I knew something needed to change, but wasn't sure what. What it comes down to is that it's easier to change the coach than all the players. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I hope the Jackets get things figured out because I want to see them thrive and stay in this town for a long, long time.

    @Anonymous - if you are going to criticize DBJ for not being "courageous" then maybe you should actually post YOUR NAME! How ironic...


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