Thursday, October 20, 2011

Will the CBJ Ever Recover from the Firing of Dave King?

At What Price Stability?
Ken Hitchcock at Training Camp This Year. 

Disclosure.  I am a huge Ken Hitchcock fan.  You ever listen to the guy talk?  You learn about the game of hockey every time he opens his mouth.  This guy has forgotten more about the game then I have ever known.

Disclosure.  I disagreed with the firing of Ken Hitchcock.  On the same principles, I disagree with the notion that Arniel is replaceable over the short term.  On the same principles, Dave King never should have been fired.  Therein lies the problem.  We lack organizational stability.  How can the players buy into a system if they know the guy will be gone every time there is a losing streak?  Who do they listen to?  How do you buy in to a transient?

We have met the enemy, and he is us!  We as fans have to have the collective chutzpah to survive this disastrous start.  Have I experienced this before? Yes! (think Zherdev)  Has there been cumulative damage to my psyche??  Emphatically so.  As a group are our fans in the same boat?  Yup.  Undoubtedly.

Why?  Why should we endure this intolerable pain??  Because that is the path to organizational stability, something we have never had in Columbus.  And we will not succeed significantly in the NHL until we get there.  And the most graphic examples, and best comparable teams are a big part of our 2011-12 pain fest.  Minnesota and Nashville.

One thing in common between Minnesota and Nashville is their comparatively deep and and established defensive corps.  These teams were built from the back end out by nearly a decade of, in Minnesota's case, and over a decade of, in Nashville's case, consistent vision by the General Manager and the franchise.  Our defensive corps is a swirl of change, with few players remaining from the 2008-09 playoff team.  The teams we can't score on have spent 9 to 11 years getting there.  We have spent several months getting to the point where we can't defend against them.

The good news is that it won't take much longer than another month for the defensive corps to start jelling and producing.  Whether our playoff hopes will last that long is arguable, but we won't need to wait 10 years.  The same can be said of our forwards.  They need time to jell.  And certainly we have been unlucky early, with injuries, suspensions, and the like.  When you consider these things, the notion that a coach has control over this seems silly.  I don't think Hitch had control over the fact that the defensive pair of a year before was suddenly ineffective, or the Calder Trophy winning goalie was trailing the league in GAA.  I don't think Dave King had control over the fact that he was icing a team that wasn't even as good as the inaugural team (Stevie Heinze had bolted).  But the fans expected a winner.  So Doug MacLean fired Dave King, and took over the coaching job.  The roster lacked talent.  Doug MacLean fared just about as well as Dave King.  And the cycle of coaching instability was established.

Since he was not having success, Doug turned the reins over to Gerard Gallant.  The Turk is a good dude, and had initial success.  Let's examine that for a moment, because it is significant.

Gerard took over the team right before the lockout.  In a parallel with Claude Noel (not to disparage Claude or Gerard in the least), he had success with a team that WAS ALREADY OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS.  The most successful runs in our franchise's history have been when they were out of the hunt, the pressure was off, and it didn't matter if they won or lost.  Its a lot different when the games matter.  As much as I love David Vyborny, the last several seasons he would not play well until the pressure was off, and the team was out of the playoffs.  Then he would pad his numbers (against NHL competition mind you) in the games that didn't matter anymore.

Disclosure.  I objected to the firing of Gerard Gallant on the same grounds as Kinger and Hitch.

At some point, as fans, we have to just suck it up.  Why?  Towards the end which is organizational stability.  We have to stop the merry-go-round of coaching changes.  Nashville has had Barry Trotz.  We have had King, MacLean, Gallant, Hitchcock and Arniel.  In the same period Scotty Bowman retired after a stellar career in Detroit.  He was replaced by Dave Lewis, his assistant, who couldn't make the veterans try in the regular season, so he was replaced by Mike Babcock, who has done a great job there (damn him! Sorry Grandma).  Detroit has organizational stability.  This is a quality we need to aspire to.

Its easy to be a Redwings fan now.  When Gerard was playing for the Redwings, they were called the Deadwings in the post Gordie Howe period.  They were terrible.  But they built a solid foundation on that base.  That's easy for an original six franchise.  Not so easy for an expansion franchise.

Disclosure.  I HATE being played for a sucker.  I don't like to be told that 'this guy is really, really good, and ready to take the next step, even though the rest of the NHL doesn't want him, and we are paying him the league minimum.  When I look at the 2011-12 team, I know that I am not being played for a sucker.  Ownership did all that could reasonably be expected in one short off-season.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.  Now that we have identified the enemy, we are half way there.  The players need to know that they can be free to buy into what the coach is saying, and know that he won't get jerked out of there because the fans are mad.  Duh.  We're mad.  Any other questions?

Why should we endure this pain?  Organizational stability demands it.  That is the path.  It may be rocky, and it may be painful, but we need to walk it as a fan base if we want to get to the other side.  And frankly, I'm tired of this side.

Sigh.  Disclosure.  I guess this means I'll still be yelling at the refs.  Apologies to my spouse and those sitting near me.

Ken Hitchcock has the most wins as a coach in franchise history.  He is still on the payroll.  But Scott Arniel is the coach now.  And he, and the players, deserve the whole year to prove who they are, and who they can be.  That is the path to stability.  And we need to walk it.  Together, as fans.



  1. And that, my fair readers, is one great piece by Gallos...and an object lesson in why you want to read the byline as well as the article on this blog.

    Because, you see, we value differences of opinion around these parts.

  2. FWIW...Last year, Doug MacLean was interviewed by Dave Metzold on 610 as part of their season long celebration of 10 years for the CBJ. The subject of Dave King came up and he indicated it was John McConnell Sr. that ordered him to fire King but he had to take the heat.

  3. First, I don't believe a word X-GMHC Doug says. Sure, blame the deceased owner for naming yourself coach. What a despicable piece of shit!

    On Gallos: I'm with you on the advantage of stability in a winning organization. Problem is in recognizing when the right people are in place and being sure the path chosen is the right one to follow for a significant length of time. Are Howson and Arniel on the right track? If we stick with them, will the team see success for years? Looking back, would Hitch have gotten them back on track and returned to the playoffs, year after year? Those are the tough questions, and the ability to answer them correctly is the difference between us and the Wings. I don't know the right answers; but, if the management of this team can't find them pretty soon, we're going to continue to see a revolving door behind the bench, one failed system after another on the ice, and endless anguish for the dwindling fan base.

  4. Amen to that! There's a fine line between being patient for a system (and players) to click and recognizing that a change needs to be made. Not sure Arniel is the answer, in either patience or ability to recognize dysfunction, but as fans it's way too early to be calling for heads on platters.

  5. King should have never been fired. He and Tippett are cruising with a team full of relative nobodies. They're developing young talent while we ruin it and trade it away.


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