Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was given a vote of confidence by GM Scott Howson last week. That comes as no surprise, but the talk is the Columbus players are getting tired of Hitchcock’s act.
This one is courtesy of Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun. I’ve quoted the entire piece for you and can only say look it up at Kukla’s Korner. Garrioch offers nothing else for us to consider.
So I’ll throw in something. The team clearly is not responding to coach Ken Hitchcock. I listen to most of the post-game press conferences and I hear the same thing every time from Hitch. The players are not hungry, competitive, composed, whatever. They have to figure it out, that losing is worse than winning, that the answer is in the locker room. If I missed anything, please let me know.
I’ve watched Hitchcock for a long time and talked to a few of his former players. They all like him, say positive things about the man, and think he is a quality coach. The only person who has publicly said things that were not complimentary is Brett Hull. But he is the only one.
If Ken Hitchcock had his way, every game would be a 1-0 or 2-1 Jacket victory. The opposing team would only get about ten shots on goal, none of them closer than 35 feet away. The Jackets would get their goal(s) not from a planned offensive action but from a strong forecheck that resulted in a turnover that leads to a goal. Hitchcock doesn’t care which Blue Jacket scores the goal because he is more concerned about the plus/minus of the players, the hits, the turnovers, and puck possession time.
This strategy and tactics work when you have the appropriate players and misses when the opposition finds a weakness and over-matches you. Columbus fans are seeing those over-matches too frequently these days. It’s fine to be a tough defensive team, but what if you don’t have the players who can score goals with any consistency? What happens when the players are too focused on checking (and I don’t mean body) and can’t transition to offense with any effectiveness? What happens if the players are too tired from playing defense all the time and can’t score?
It’s been said that it is easier to teach defense than offense and Ken Hitchcock has done a great job of getting the team to play that way. Yes, there have been some blowouts this year that refute that, but by and large teams know they won’t have an easy time scoring against Columbus. But I think it is time to work on offense and the team needs to look at ways to do this better. Do they need to hire a new assistant coach who can focus on offense and scoring? Do they need different players or just one or two or three? Hitch has his players and successfully banished those who did not meet his standards. Another puck-moving, right/left-handed, hard hitting defenseman would be welcome, but how many of them do we need? Remember, the NHL wants scoring and has tweaked the rules and emphasis of play to get more scoring.
This team is drifting and about to get too far away from shore. The hockey played at Nationwide is dull and unexciting and it won’t get fans into the seats. Losing makes it even worse. Hearing the coach state over and over the same things all the time is getting old. Time is running out for the team to both move up in the standings and to solidify its presence in the NHL.