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In the waning days of his coaching stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ken Hitchcock uttered the title phrase regarding his players, many of whom remain the core players of today's team.
After a solid start, best in franchise history, his team had imploded in December, and spiraled out of control. The fans were calling for the coaches head. Sound familiar?
Remember folks. We're not talking about Wiz, Carter, or Prospal. We are talking about Nash, Umberger, Vermette and Brassard here. The core players. And this is what the Hall of Fame coach uttered about his players, as he viewed the handwriting on the wall for his coaching job - These players must learn to hate losing more than anything else.
There are real reasons why the core of this team has not learned this lesson. But it this team is ever going to have the long term success they want to have, they have to learn to hate losing with a burning passion. We are in the middle of that learning process right now, and it really doesn't matter how many games they lose, or whether or not we make the playoffs this year. It matters that the core of this team learn to hate losing more than anything. Because that is the pre-requisite for becoming a successful franchise.
It seems so easy. Hate losing. These are professional players. Is should be no problem right? First you run an 82 game marathon, with all the ups and downs of normal human life that go one during the period it takes to run the marathon. Then, if you are lucky, you turn around and get to participate in a biathlon, a combination of slug fest and another marathon, to get to the championship series. To get to the top of this heap, you have to have an inner fire smoldering that will get you through the inevitable gut wrenching periods.
If you look at the last year and a half of play, there are good reasons why this team has not learned that lesson. They were relatively successful at the end under Claude Noel. That gives you the notion that 'hey, we're not that bad, it must have been that other guy'.
The next season starts. Two months of success, with the best start in franchise history for the second consecutive year. Yeah! We've finally made it! Then the December implosion, the rally, and then the disappointing fade at the end of the year.
We made lots of changes in the off season! It must have been those other guys!
No fellas. It's you. I love you all, but time for some tough love.
Rick Nash - I think you are starting to see it yourself. You're 28. Its no longer good enough to lead by example. You're not the young guy chilling and playing on your X-box anymore. Time to be more vocal.
Because why? Because you need to learn to hate losing more than anything. And you need to make sure your team hates losing more than anything.
We are extremely fortunate to have Vinny Prospal on this team. Because he is showing them the way to make this hatred be transformed into action. It must be transferred into practice, and into everything you do. Well done Vinny.
For us, the suffering fan base, we need to realize the process that we are now part of. There are no easy ways out. This team MUST climb the mountain that Hitch pointed to almost 2 years ago. And they must do it from within, by themselves, with no one else to blame. They now must earn everything they get, and they need to realize that work that needs to be done to earn what they want, and they must show that they have the fire to do it.
Good luck fellas. Strangely enough, we believe in you.