By Rick Gethin
It’s hard not to feel bad for Ken Hitchcock. He’s taking each and every loss harder than any player in the Columbus locker room. With the Blue Jackets record sitting at a dismal 15-19-9, the coach has run out of things to say about the losses. Listening to him in the post-game presser is almost too painful. You can see that he’s reaching a level of angst and depression that he hasn’t felt in a long time, if ever. At this point of this season, I believe that the Blue Jackets management has to have reached a crossroads. As much as I don’t want to say it, it’s time for a real shake-up; Ken Hitchcock has to go.
I can’t, in good conscience, place all of the blame at Hitchcock’s feet. The team hasn’t played well at all, either. They’ve only won 3 games in their last 23. To say that hurts would be the understatement of the year. With a tough 3 game road trip starting Tuesday in Vancouver, followed by games in Edmonton and Calgary, there is no margin of error. In order for the coach to save his job and/or the team to make the playoffs, they would have to win 2/3 of their remaining 39 games. Looking at this realistically, that would seem insurmountable; and it most likely is. Am I being defeatist or pessimistic? No; I’m being honest given the play of the Blue Jackets through the first 43 games.
Columbus GM Scott Howson has proven that he’s a patient man. However, his hands are being bound with the mounting losses, and seemingly no end in sight. He needs to make the call to shake this team to it’s very core. I don’t expect a new coach to come in and perform a miracle in the form of Dan Bylsma in Pittsburgh one season ago. But a coaching change might just be what gets this club back on track.
Much has been said and written about Hitch and the way he brings along young players. There have been many who said he’s too exacting with what he expects of the youngsters and too quick to punish them when they make a mistake. I’ve never been one to subscribe to that theory. The words of my late grandfather ring just as true today as they did many years ago when they were first said to me. “Don’t ever expect anything in this world to be handed to you”, he said, “you have to earn it through hard work and paying your dues.” Yes, this is a young team. But that should not be an excuse for the losses and poor play. Hitch has proven that he knows how to win the ultimate prize. Yet I’m afraid that he’s come to the end of his rope with this team.
Saturday morning, the St. Louis Blues gave head coach Andy Murray the axe. He was in his fourth season with the club and this year had a 17-18-6 record; very similar to the Blue Jackets thus far. My feeling is that the axe is about to fall in Columbus and this upcoming road trip might just be the straw that broke the camels back. Put an interim coach in place and conduct a thorough search for a quality coach to take his place behind the bench. I doubt that Scott Howson will make a knee-jerk reaction, but even he has to see the writing on the wall.
Something has to change with this team.I hope that I’m wrong and they can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat. But, failing that, it’s time for the coach to go.