Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You say poorly conditioned, I say sloppy

Scott Arniel is using the media to talk to the refs, the league...and his team.
(Photo from The Hockey Writers)
Interesting utterances out of the new Columbus Blue Jackets head coach yesterday.  Scott Arniel was quoted by the Dispatch as saying,
"I don't want to get in trouble (with the NHL) here," Arniel said, "but I looked at all (16) penalties (on film). There were some interesting calls that I didn't think were penalties. I think some of that is carryover from last year and years past. We've been a team that's high in the amount of minor penalties that we take. Sometimes your reputation precedes you." [Emphasis added]
Before I take this too much further, The Dispatch's writer in the Puck Rakers chat today suggested that it might be a little gamesmanship on Arniel's part - letting the league and the referees know of his displeasure at being plagued with ticky-tack fouls that have followed them throughout the preseason and across the Atlantic.  I can subscribe to that theory.

I also think, however, that Arniel is using his honeymoon period to the hilt.  He's recognized issues that he does not like - cultural, coaching, whatever - and is attacking them full-on.  To this end, he's not just suggesting that the refs blew a bunch of calls (and he DID do that) but instead is going further to suggest that his own squad has a roster as a sloppy/lazy/pre-lockout playing bunch.

Yeah, I said it.  Arniel called his team out.

He did it deftly, to be sure, but let's be clear: You can't say, "Sometimes your reputation precedes you," and not be throwing someone under the bus.

Claude Noel tried a similar gambit with the media,
but that didn't go so well.
(Photo from the Vancouver Sun)
What makes all of this even more interesting is that former interim head coach Claude Noel did something very similar last season when he said at the conclusion of last season's Olympic break, "I won't know where the players are going to be conditioning-wise when we get back together (today), but I do know where we were before this little break we've had, and it was marginal ... at best. ... I'd say it was maybe 3 out of 10." ("Noel will put Jackets to work - Grueling practices await team that isn't in good shape," Columbus Dispatch, 2/24/2010 - sorry, I can't find a working free link)

After that fit of honesty on Noel's part, R.J. Umberger came back the next day and slapped Noel down in the same newspaper.  And that, I suggest, was the moment where Claude Noel lost any chance at the permanent head coaching gig in Columbus.

So Arniel calls his team out and - thus far - gets a pass.  Noel did the same, but perhaps with a little less tact, and is brushed off in the minds of the locker room.  Both were honest in their assessment, but one got away with it.

Perhaps it was The Lost Season of 2009-2010 that changed the attitudes of the players.  Perhaps it's that the players realize that Arniel is going to be around for a while, so they had best let this one pass.  Just maybe, it's that the players realize that Arniel's calling out of both the players and the refs suggests that both sides really do need to look within and raise their respective games.  And that while Arniel is openly challenging the locker room, he's also telling them that he has their backs.

Regardless, the fact that the players are not revolting on this comment suggests to me that Arniel is making progress in closing the legendary Columbus NHL Country Club once and for all.  If that happens, and if the players pick up the Arniel/Boughner/Berry system, this could be one dangerous team in short order.

3 comments:

  1. Sorry, but I missed your correlation between the CBJ's reputation of getting called for non-penalties and the postulation that Arniel thinks they're out of shape. Unless I'm missing part of the conversation (interview), I don't see Arniel calling out his team, only NHL Officiating (a worthy target). Is there more to this?

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  2. Hmmm...let's see.

    I'm suggesting that Arniel is calling out his players for a "reputation" for sloppy play (which is the foundation of his calling out the refs on the penalty calls).

    I also suggested that Noel, not Arniel, called out the players on conditioning.

    Point is, both coaches took a swipe at their locker room. One didn't get away with it, and the other has...thus far.

    Insofar as both coaches' critiques have merit, I like that Arniel has the clout to make his statement and get away with it. (Arniel also was a little more savvy in how he made his statement, granted.)

    Does that help?

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  3. DBJ - I see your point now, and I definitely appreciate Arniel's tact in the matter. Let's hope the Jackets can clean up the sloppy play to break the ref's bias against them.

    If it looks like a hook, it must be a hook...?

    Thanks!

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