Friday, February 5, 2010

Not So Breaking News... Hitchcock

There has never been any question that my tendencies have leaned towards removing Ken Hitchcock as the coach of this team. With the lack of quality coming from the players, and the excuses piling up, even if Hitch were deemed ' the right man for the job', something had to give.

In removing him at this point of the year, it says a couple things about the organization. First, Mike Priest is eating his words. After praising Hitch and saying that he had absolute confidence in him, removing him is definitely a shot in the leg of an otherwise unwavering attitude towards the veteran coach. While I believe it was the right decision to make 3 months ago, I do have to respect Priest for eating his words and accepting the idea that maybe, just maybe, this team could be better without Hitch.

Secondly, it all but removed Columbus from playoff contention. I was already knee deep in draft lottery details. I have been tracking the standings daily and not necessarily rooting against the Jackets, but smirking a bit each time they dropped a contest. It was never a sense of abandonment, but an absolution that having a top three pick would do worlds for the future of this franchise. By removing the coach now, it gives fans hope of an incredible run to the playoffs, and the ideology that the blanket of abysmal play has been lifted.

Thirdly, it readdresses the issue of Filatov. His value went up with the removal of Hitch, and with it, the likelihood of his return to North America. I am not suggesting that he is going to be successful when he returns, but he remains one of the highest sought after prospects in the game of hockey, and if it does happen that Hitch was simply the wrong coach for him, Columbus has quite a few more poker chips when considering what to do with the budding Russian.

So let us not exaggerate what has happened here. Claude Noel is a fine coach, but not someone I would like to see take over full time for the Jackets. My expectations for the current year went up, solely because I think Noel is going to let them play their own game. I am looking forward to seeing a young, offensive minded coach come in during the summer, and with him, the aspiration of a quality playoff team in 2011. The Jackets still have a hole to dig themselves out of, but it suddenly seems a lot less muddy with a major piece of their team 'retooled'.

Carry the Flag!

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