Dose of Reality #12December 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