Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shifting the goalposts

...We interrupt my extended vacation for a brief commentary...

Hey there, everybody.  Just checking in from a pretty place much closer to the Equator with some thoughts on the Jackets since I left for vacation.
  • The Jackets went on a 3-game win streak in western Canada, proving that the team has the talent to win.
  • Since that point, the Jackets have gone 1-4-0, proving that they don't have the mindset (temperment?) to make the playoffs this year.  
  • In the last 3 games, the Jackets scored 10 combined goals.  I daresay the team's scoring drought is over.  (Rick Nash's 11-game scoreless streak ended, too.)
The last point suggests a change in coach Ken Hitchcock's philosophy.  Now I haven't seen a game since leaving Ohio, but the commentary I'm reading indicates that the old-school "dump and chase" offense is being replaced with a puck possession offense.  This gives credence to Michael Arace's awesome commentary on Hitch's soul searching:
Some would argue he has also been grinding down players, particularly young ones. Hitchcock says two things: No. 1, there is no pressure on any young player to do anything other than work hard. No. 2, he needs to rethink how he handles players, young and old.

No. 2 is a recent epiphany.
Hitch is handing the younger players over to assistant coach Gary Agnew for coaching and, possibly more importantly, a friendly shoulder.  He's clearly letting the offense loosen up as Rick Nash and other players have apparently asked.  Heck, he even made Derek Dorsett an alternate captain.

I've pretty much reconciled myself that the Blue Jackets won't be in the NHL postseason this year.  Arace alludes to this:
We shall see how committed he is to this new tack in his philosophy, and whether it works. At this point in a potentially playoff-free season, management is monitoring the spirit of the team as much as it is wins and losses. Hitchcock has that spirit in his hands.
Thus, the goalposts on the season have been shifted.  It appears that Hitchcock is now open to making the changes necessary to win in today's NHL.  The early results are mixed, however, but even mixed results are cause for optimism when you consider what the CBJ have done since mid-November.

I'll be back next weekend...the blogging should pick up soon thereafter.  Until then...Let's Go Jackets!

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