Dose of Reality #13

December 7, 2006

Dose of Reality

Two in a row, breaking the old winning streak of one in a row.  Wow, a great win and I didn’t have to hear Jeff Rimer whine at all during the Colorado game.  Life is good, eh?

At the risk of providing the hockey writers of The Dispatch with even more ideas, it is nice to have two goalies.  If the play of Leclaire and Norrena continues to shine, no longer will opposing teams have the luxury of taking the night off when they play the Blue Jackets.  Now they will have to work to score some goals, develop a game plan, and skate hard against us.  Is this going to be just like last season, where we were out of it by Christmas and then played good hockey the rest of the season?  Will Doug MacLean come up with another set of statistics that say if you throw out the first (fill in the blank) games, we would be in the playoffs?  I hope not.

It is not going to be like last season because other teams did take the Jackets seriously before this season started.  If you go back and read the post game interviews with the players who beat us, the remarks of the established hockey media, or anybody else who was alive back in September of 2006, they had high but reasonable expectations of the Blue Jackets.  They were puzzled like the rest of us as to why the team was so bad.  And you can bet that right now most of those same people are saying that the Jackets appear to be back on track, so it won’t be a walk in the park anymore.  We need to play them tougher and respect their ability and work ethic.

And Ken Hitchcock is not going to pursue victories to save his job like Gallant had to last season.  He has a contract that keeps him around for a few years and with this being his first year, he wants to learn all that he can about the team.  If that means playing Dan Fritsche in situations that someone else used to play, guys like Fritsche (and Brule) will get the additional ice time.  I’m not saying that Hitchcock won’t play to win.  What he will do is get some of the players of the future to learn how to win, building their experience and knowledge base so that next year he can count on them.

So what can go wrong?  Well, the injury bug seems to have flown away for the time being, but it could bite at any time. We know that most of our opponents looked forward to a relaxing game with the Jackets, but they won’t be doing that anymore.  Players could become disenchanted with their new role under Ken Hitchcock and move on.  They could let their unhappiness affect their play, losing some of the energy that has been harnessed by Hitchcock.

The big factor is going to be, as usual, Doug MacLean.  It is going to be absolutely critical that he work with Ken Hitchcock and provide him with the players that Hitchcock needs to win.  MacLean has it good here in Columbus, with a fat contract, lots of authority as President and GM, and despite the years of poor performance, is still fairly safe.  Will he want to share credit with someone else for the future success of the team?

– Truth Serum

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