Columbus’ GM Scott Howson has to let go Ken Hitchcock
After a great 2008-09 season during which Blue Jackets’ head coach Ken Hitchcock led his young and budding team to its first ever playoffs appearance as a franchise, things have changed dramatically this season.
After 44 games this season, the Blue Jackets are ranked 14th in the Western Conference with a dismal 15-20-9 record and 39 points on pace for a mere 73 points, 19 points less than last year. Hitchock will likely be the next coach to be fired after Andy Murray was shown the door by the Blues’ GM on January 2nd.
Hitchcock’s record as the Blue Jackets’ head coach is 118 wins, 116 losses and 36 OT losses 270 games over four seasons, is quite unimpressive compared to his .589 points percentage over his 15-year career as an NHL coach.
Blue Jackets had great expectations for this season with the plethora of young talents such as Derrick Brassard, Nikita Filatov, Jakub Voracek, Kris Russell and Steve Mason. Franchise-player Rick Nash was also expected to have a career-year after a great start notching 24 points in the first 18 games. But things turned bad quickly after about 15 games when Columbus’ Russian star Nikita Filatov was loaned to the KHL due to an inability to coexist with Hitchcock.
GM Scott Howson has proven that he is a very patient GM. However, his hands are bound with the continuous losses, and his team poor play. He needs to make let go Hitchcock to shake the core of this team. Players are growing tired of hearing Hitchcock yelling at them and have not embarked his bandwagon this season. Much has been said about his way of working with young players and the ice-time he has given to checkers like Pahlsson, Chimera, Boll and Torres over talented players such as Brassard, Voracek and Filatov.
Moreover, his defensive system is not working at all this season, as the Jackets currently rank 26th in the league with an average of 3.16 goals per game allowed. Defensive stud Jan Hejda, who had been +20 and +23 the past two seasons, is already -9 after only 36 games played. The goaltenders have also been a problem for the Jackets as the sophomore slump has hit hard Calder-trophy candidate Steve Mason. Mason is 11-15-6 in 33 games sporting a 3.31 GAA and a miserable .890 save %. Hitch even said recently that Mason was no longer the #1 goalie and that he would rotate his goalies on a winning basis. Mathieu Garon has been somewhat better, but not very consistent so far (4-5-3 with a 2.81 GAA and a .900 Save %).
With Ken Hitchcock, the style of hockey played is at best, bland and boring. Heavy traffic in the neutral zone, dump and chase or one man deep, the style of play rarely allows for odd man breaks that lead to earth shattering and highlight-reel goals.
Currently on a three-game road trip in Western Canada, the Jackets will face the Edmonton Oilers tonight at Rexall Place and the Flames in Calgary on Friday after being destroyed 7-3 in Vancouver on Tuesday. The Canucks scored their seven goals on only 24 shots.
Barring two convincing wins by the Jackets in their next two games, Ken Hitchcock will be shown the door on Saturday by GM Scott Howson when the team comes back to Columbus in preparation of their match-up against the Dallas Stars on Sunday.