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Dose of Reality #12

December 4, 2006

Dose of Reality

I’ve been pretty busy the last two weeks and haven’t seen much of the Jacket games. But what I have seen is good and I look forward to seeing them on Sunday when they host Ottawa.

Ken Hitchcock is evaluating the team right now, seeing who is a player and who needs to change teams. He has the guys working hard, doing things his way, and therefore playing better. This alone makes him a good hire already.

The real challenge will come in a few more months when he is finished with his evaluation and presents the General Manger with his list of who he wants to keep, who he wants to drop, and what he needs to make the team a play off contender. At that point, we fans will see if Doug MacLean is ready to work with his coach or continue doing business as usual.

I see one very identifiable Hitchcock tactic being used. Ken believes that you should give your best players the most ice time and he is especially strong on the idea strategy that your best scorers should be out on the ice in key situations. In Dallas, he took Mike Modano and not only did he use him on the power play but added him to the penalty-killing unit. So now we see Rick Nash starting to get time with the penalty-killing group as Hitchcock brings him along. Hitchcock’s point is that when you have a weapon like Nash out on the ice during shorthanded situations, the other team cannot be too aggressive and have to pay close attention to a Modano and Nash. The other team’s power play now has to consider the risks of playing against an elite scorer and play a little more conservative. The strategy has merits and it is great fun to watch the other teams now as they have to shift part of their focus to Nash.

It also appears as if Hitchcock has gotten more productivity out of Svitov. He is not taking as many penalties as he previously did and is playing smarter on offensive.

And finally, Hitchcock is not going to throw Pascal Leclaire to the wolves. Ken Hitchcock has been around a long time and experienced, successful NHL coaches do not bet their jobs on young goaltenders. This is not meant to disparage Leclaire, but instead is a message that he will still be expected to win but under more reasonable circumstances. There is nothing wrong with Fredik Norrena and Hitchcock will use him to compliment Leclaire not just to back him up.

So sit back fans and watch the next two months. They will be very interesting. In February you should have an idea where the team is headed and what kind of team they will be.

– Truth Serum

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8 comments

  1. Very interesting to watch the changes mid-season and the effect on the Jackets. I’m curious as to how Nash is feeling about his new short handed responsibilities. Any idea how he’s taking it?

    I’ve always liked Doug McLean because he’s strong enough to make bold moves admit when moves did work out the way he anticipated. His biggest problem to date has been his inability to land an NHL caliber coach. Looks like Hitch is now showing the franchise why they haven’t gotten anywhere yet.


  2. Is he going to throw LeClaire in because he wants to ride a new guy, or that he got burned so bad with Robert Esche. I would rather have the goaltending excuse of a young kid to roll back on, while I evaluate my new team.

    Not that they needed it last night, with another shutout, but how long is that going to last? They got doubled up on in shots, and pulled off a 3-0 shutout. You can only ride the hot hand to victory so many times before it becomes un-hot.

    So, how is the CBJ defense these days?


  3. 1. MacLean never wanted to hire a strong coach because he is too involved in the coaching process himself. When he couldn’t get Dave King to coach the way he wanted, he fired him.

    2. Columbus has a history of over-using a single goalie, Tugnutt and Denis in the past, and burning them out. Leclaire is too young and not far enough along in his development to be used in that manner. Ken Hitchcock is just using common sense here and bringing Leclaire along at the proper speed and using Norrena to compliment Leclaire.


  4. Tapeleg’s comments got me thinking (more specifically the last sentence). So I did a little digging around, and I decided that my weeklong exile from posting will end very soon with a little analysis exercise.

    I’m not sure if I’ll like what I find, but it’s interesting nonetheless.


  5. See, now I’ve thrown you to the wolves. HA!!

    See, I never thought getting rid of Denis for Leclare was the smartest of moves, and is turning out like Cam Ward in Carolina. I’ve never played the position, so I’m talking out my 5 hole here, but there seems to be a certain confidence you get with a competent backup.

    Also, as far as Tugnutt, I never understood his hero status he has in Columbus. He had the worst record ever for the Quebec Nordiques, kind of like a joke. But, hey, it takes a village, right?


  6. I thought that the Jackets should have gone one more year with Denis and Leclaire, but things seem to have worked out. Denis won his 100th NHL game last night and a shutout, too.

    Tugnutt was a cult figure because other than Espen Knutsen, the team had nobody that the fans liked. And we all knew that Tugger was going to get shelled every night he played. But he kept things interesting. I mean, instead of losing games 9-2, the Jackets would only lose 6-3.

    Also, Tugnutt was out in the community, with his two sons playing on local minor teams and his wife very friendly and down-to-earth. Ron would sign an autograph and talk to anyone who approached him. He really did want to end his career in Columbus, but MacLean nixed that idea.


  7. You’re confusing me even more.

    First, look at what’s going on with Denis down in Tampa. Do you honestly think that the CBJ would be in any better of a situation if those stats were transplanted back to Columbus? And maybe you could clarify how it’s turning out like Cam Ward in Carolina (I don’t follow the ‘Canes that much, so I’m unclear what you’re referencing). Also, I think there is confidence in a competent backup in Columbus. With Gallant, the competent backup wasn’t getting played. Now, he is and the world is good for now.

    Regarding Tugnutt, he was a completely different goaltender in Columbus than he was for Quebec. In parts of five seasons with the Nordiques, Tugger didn’t play much, and was a mediocre goalie at best. In Columbus, he was the reason that the team was in games and set an NHL record for expansion goalies in wins. And because his name is Tugnutt, it’s funny and a bit of a joke that won’t go away.

    Colorado hockey fans that picked up the team when they moved (I’m not saying you’re one of these, as I don’t know), have the entire 1996 Cup winning team as their heroes. The Blue Jackets have not shared that level (or any at all for that matter) of success, but we give credit where credit is due. Tugger was one of the all-time great expansion goalies. It’s an odd distinction, but he could be remembered for worse.

    And there were much worse ‘Diques netminders. How about Michel Dion?


  8. OK,

    As far as Denis, I’m not sure he would be any better, but he could have given Leclare a little development time in the NHL, rather than playing the dance back and forth to the Crunch. Ward, looking like the man in the Cup finals, was given the starter job, and promptly looked like he wasn’t ready. Same with Leclare. Between Denis and Leclaire, the numbers are so close, but how would the team play in front of Denis vs Leclaire. I realize someone saw something good in Leclaire, but considering his up/down nature with the club, why take the gamble so whole handedly (is that a word)?

    You know what I thought? I thought 2 things would happen, and only one of them did. I figured Anson Carter to the Jackets, but I also was guessing Marty Biron to the Jackets for a song. Resonable price, decent goalie, help the young guy (Leclaire) work his way up. And he moves to a different conference, which makes the Sabres happy. But, it wasn’t to be.

    Dion went 0-8-3 in the 80-81 season. That sucks. Tugnutt went 5-24-3 in the 89-90 season. Which one is worse? about half a goal off in save%. It’s not the lesser of two evils, it’s the evil of two lessers.

    If you want to know, yep, I’m a 10 year old bandwagon jumper. Before the Avs got here, I couldn’t even spell NHL (I still have a problem with that one). No one around here knew what a nordique was, most still don’t, and if it weren’t for the Avs, they wouldn’t be wearing those powder blue jerseys. I don’t ever worry about it, though. You have to start somewhere, and I like where I started. I wish I would have been skating earlier in life, but that would make me, most likely, less of a fan today.



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