Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rosebud


Sometimes it takes the worst of scenarios to occur for the truth to come out.  Like any image-conscious businessman (like, say, Charles Foster Kane), the Jackets would much rather play with smoke and mirrors rather than admit ugly truths.  However, when the days are darkest, tongues loosen.

I'll submit that this just happened with the Columbus Blue Jackets, as reported by Tom Reed at Puck Rakers.  While not the deathbed revelation of Charley Kane (luckily not as cryptic, either), Ken Hitchcock had perhaps the most cogent argument for staying the course with the Blue Jackets despite their 20 loss in 23 game stretch and both fans and media turning their backs on the franchise.

It turns out, after all, that this is part of a larger franchise strategy.  I'll let Hitch speak for himself:
"We maxed out last year and we didn't win a playoff game. We have to get a lot better than that and the only way you do that is by going through the growing pains.

"We are in a winning business and so people have complained that we're not winning right now. If we don't go through this long-term vision -- which could be six months, it could be a year -- then we are not going to be really good when we need to be really good."
THERE!  That's it.  The team leadership had a plan last year - playoffs or bust - and executed it to within an inch of their lives.  But they were wise enough to appreciate that getting to the playoffs and doing something once you're there are two different things.  So they considered their options and decided to suck it up and go the youth route.  It's the long view, but, as Hitch says, the team will be really good when they need to be really good.

So Hitch plays the youngsters as he can (Voracek, Brassard), benches them when he has to (Mason, Russell, Methot).  And some just don't want to go through the growing pains as a team member (Filatov).


But wait!  Phoenix had much of the same issue last year, stocking the roster with young players who didn't come through for them.  Maloney's solution: Send the kids back to the AHL and sign a bunch of vets like Robert Lang and his now-legendary $1 million contract.  That's not the Blue Jackets approach, though, as Hitch elaborates:
“It would be easy to sit out young guys and play stop-gap (players) but we are not doing that," Hitchcock said. "We trust how good these guys are going to be.


"We have gone through growing pains with guys and we are going to stay with that program," Hitchcock said. "I really see light at the end of the tunnel. I see where guys like Brassard and Voracek are at and where they were at six weeks ago and there's a dramatic change.

“We’ve got a plan and we’re willing to stick with it,” Hitchcock said. “And if it costs me my job then it costs me my job, but there is a plan."
Now that we have a better understanding of what the plan actually is - take the lumps now, go through the growing pains and develop a robust team that can be competitive for years to come, I'm actually much more tolerant of the losing. Sure, I'd like to go to the playoffs every year. But I'd like to win once I got there - and if that can't happen with the roster as evaluated by Hitch and Howson, then go to Plan B and use Nashville as a model.


It's clear that playoffs are out of the picture this year, and the newly enunciated plan is in full effect.  I would submit that the keys then to the rest of the season are: 1) Play the young core as much as humanly possible, 2) Keep the locker room together, and make it a safe place where the growing pains are tolerated if not embraced, 3) Continuously improve in on-ice play and 4) Continuously improve in wins and losses from one ten-game stretch to the next for the duration of the season.  Sounds to me like that's all we can ask.

3 comments:

  1. Respectfully, sir, I'm not buying any of it. I know what you're saying, but it's lipstick on a pig. This team is fully capable of more than what it's done. It has demonstrated as much, both last season and this one. Period. The coach is not getting it done.

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  2. hey, do whatever you have to do to get through this season.

    i'm going to pass my 'hockey time' by taking as much pleasure in watching teams i hate choke, underperform in short, yet bearable (for their fanbase) stints, sustain roster shattering injuries & constantly remind myself that i will never be a redwing/pens bandwagon fan.

    there's always next year....er, well, maybe there is.

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  3. Your Friendly Pens FanJanuary 5, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Wow Lane. There's some bitterness. I certainly hope there are no fans of other hockey teams out there taking pleasure in CBJ injuries.

    And just so you know, I've been a Pens fan for 20 years. No bandwagon jumper here. I suffered through some really, REALLY bad seasons. There's a reason the Pens got to draft guys like Fleury, Crosby, Malkin and Staal. Suck it up!

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