The Monday Hit List

November 27, 2006

Well I picked a fine time for a blog vacation, huh?  Not that a ton happened, but I actually have a CBJ win to talk about (among other things) and I’m busy stuffing my face with turkey and such.

In what is becoming a post-weekend ritual, here is the Monday EOB hit list:

  • Mrs. EOB and I attended the November 22 game against St. Louis.  While roaming the concourse prior to the puck drop, we saw the news on the arena televisions that Ken Hitchcock had been named the new head coach (more on this later).  We assumed (incorrectly) that the players were aware of the change, and were out on the ice playing to impress their new coach.  The Jackets played with spirit, with Nikolai Zherdev in particular playing a well-rounded game (a little more on this later, as well).  The Jackets couldn’t hold on to a late lead, and survived overtime only to lose in the shootout while not scoring a goal.  Not having Rick Nash in the game or Sergei Fedorov seemed to hurt a bit in that department.  It was the first point for the Jackets in six games.
  • Ken Hitchcock is named the new coach for the Blue Jackets.  Reactions are mixed throughout the blogosphere and media.  Because I’m six days behind the curve, I won’t list them out now, but rather paraphrase.  On the plus side, some say that this is a positive move for the organization.  Hitchcock will demand accountability from everyone on the roster, and some think that’s exactly the prescription needed to get the team to perform better.  On the minus side, some are questioning the move wondering if “Old NHL” Hitchcock is the answer for any team in the “New NHL”.  Since he was fired by the Flyers exactly a month prior to signing up with the Jackets, what makes the management think that he’s that good of a coach to begin with?  You’ve seen the welcome letter to Ken from Truth Serum, and here’s my opinion: it’s a plus for now.  The organization is losing fan support faster than they probably anticipated thanks to a combination of many things (losing, CGMDM, losing, etc.), they needed to make a change that showed the fan base they were seriously committed to improvement.  At this point in the franchise, the fans don’t need Stanley Cup’s every year to feel good about their team.  We just need our team to be competitive.  Hitchcock has been a proven winner in the NHL.  He has been taken to task by some for two recent issues.  First, how hapless the Flyers looked in losing to the Sabres in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Second, the pitiful start the Flyers team had to this season.  Hitchcock is being labeled as the coach who can’t hack it in the “New” NHL.  Basing that opinion on less than 20 games is a little unfair.  He didn’t sign the players that everyone is saying don’t fit, he works with what he is given.  He was fired by a team with suspect defense, poor goaltending, underperforming forwards, and a loony GM.  Sound familiar?  He’s coming from an atmosphere that is accustomed to winning, and going to one where winning is an unknown.  Ken Hitchcock has his work cut out for him with the Blue Jackets, but armed with a three-year contract I’m anxious to see what he can do.
  • I didn’t see the Flyers/Jackets contest on Friday, but from all accounts it was a good effort despite losing 3-2.  The Jackets are running out of credit at the National Bank of Moral Victories, but based on the complete lack of effort I saw in person against Nashville on November 20 it’s a good start.
  • I caught the third period of the Wild/Jackets game on Saturday night, and the boys looked pretty good in general.  For the second game in a row, the CBJ outshot the opposition, and it finally paid off with a five-goal night.  The Fedorov/Zherdev/Carter line was tremendous, netting nine points collectively.  It remains to be seen if Hitch will keep this line together, but on Saturday (for one period, at least) it was fun to watch.  If Zherdev continues to play defense (hard to believe, but true) and check hard, he will quickly be recognized as a top talent in the NHL (rather than landing on the All-Potential team again).
  • I’m cautiously optimistic given the play of the team the last three games.  The upcoming road stretch (seven of next eight are away from Nationwide) will tell a lot about how this team will be the rest of the season.  A .500 record in these games would be a welcome step in the right direction.

I hope everyone south of the border had a good holiday weekend.  Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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