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.]
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.
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.