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Dose of Reality #38

April 1, 2007

OK, I just got to watch the October Blue Jackets serve back-to-back losses against Chicago and Detroit. No sign of the Teaser Jackets, the team that shows up every season as they face elimination, nor were there any signs of referees making bad calls to screw them. No, the Jackets once again showed why they need to be gutted.

The best part of today’s game on NBC was listening to Ed Olczyk, Brett Hull, and Pierre McGuire discuss why the team is bad. Initially, the guys were polite and diplomatic, throwing out the old platitudes of rebuilding with youth, letting Ken Hitchcock manage the process from training camp, and adopting a new attitude based upon self-confidence and discipline. The Jackets didn’t help by making blunder after blunder against a Detroit team that really didn’t take them seriously, so the Three Hockey Wise Men of NBC became more candid.

First, after Brett Hull described some of the Blue Jacket play as “boneheaded”, he went further, following up on a McGuire piece on Hitchcock’s future plans with the Jackets by stating that he did not think the Jackets had the youth to win in the near future. He did not disparage the players, but does not think that they will start winning in a meaningful way next year. I define meaningful as being in the hunt for the play-offs in February.

So Ed Olczyk then asked the question of what the Jackets need, a defenseman, a center, or goalie? All three agreed on the center, but Olczyk and Hull think that the team needs to consider looking for a better goalie. Now remember, after Norrena gave up a bad fourth goal, Brett Hull stated that in hockey, you are told to “expect the unexpected”, but incredulously it “looked like he (Norrena) wasn’t expecting anything on that play”. For my “I told you so” moment, I want to say that I agree with Olczyk and Hull and think that the team needs to find a goalie to play ahead of Leclaire or Norrena next season. It is easy to be a good goalie on a bad team, but it is hard to be a good goalie on a good team.

The subject of a play-making center was then re-examined by the Wise Men and McGuire talked about how well Rick Nash played with Joe Thornton in Switzerland during the lock-out season. This led to Brett Hull asking, and not in a rhetorical sense, why would anyone want to come to Columbus? Hull says that players want to win and they are not going to win here. Ed Olczyk mentioned that Paval Datsyuk will be available next season and Hull fired back with “What are the chances of Paval Datsyuk coming” to Columbus? So one of the Wise Men then asked, without any coaching from me, will Columbus have to over pay for a free agent(s) to come here? Ah, the old CBJ conundrum. No one will come here because we don’t win, but we don’t win because no one will come here. So we over pay to get free agents to play here.

This broadcast was terrific for Columbus fans to hear because it was the bucket of ice-cold water thrown on the face. Sure, every now and then we hear a soft voice of dissent from The Dispatch, but there is nobody in this town who publicly and loudly disagrees with the team management. I think Brett Hull hit it right on the head when he predicted that it will be a few more years before the team wins. It might be even longer if management impedes Ken Hitchcock with a few bad draft picks, some bad trades or free agent signings, or various other background decisions. As a PSL holder, it will cause me to drink even more to watch them play.

The last exchange that I liked the most was again between Hull and Olczyk. Eddie was talking about the loss of Adam Foote and how it has hurt Columbus. Brett Hull again threw out the “why would anyone come here” question and applied it to Foote by asking Olczyk why he came to Columbus. The only thing Olczyk could come up with was that you would have to ask Adam Foote himself that question. Eddie knew that nobody was buying the old “build a winner here” stuff anymore. Foote came here for the money, which was more than anyone else was offering him.

-Truth Serum

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5 comments

  1. Before Brett Hull opens his mouth he should qualify each comment with” Even though I won a Stanley Cup with Ken Hitchcock back in 1999, he was perhaps the worst coach I have ever played for”. Hitchcock and “wide open creative, skilled hockey” do not go hand in hand. The Jackets could never play the way Detroit does because of the dearth of skill on this team. Of course Brett Hull is going full scale negative on the Jackets because frankly he hates Hitchcock. But what Brett Hull said is entirely true in that MacLean has not drafted well. I’m looking at the 2006-07 Jackets Yearbook with all of the first round picks on the cover. There is clearly some potential here in Nash and Zherdev. The rest is still are in a wait and see mode. Brule is quickly becoming the poster boy of how not to develope a high pick. Klesla and Picard are the poster boys for what might be or never will. LeClaire is well, always injured so the jury is out.
    Brett Hull is not wrong in my opinion about free agents not wanting to come to Columbus because of the losing atmosphere. And as I stated a few weeks ago, there is a premium that has to be paid by MacLean if indeed the free agent decides to come. As opposed to the Toronto Maple Leafs discount for wanting to go to Toronto and play for the best hockey city in the world. (Honorable mention goes to Montreal as well.)
    And to add to the list of why a free agent may not want to come: Hitchcock. Technically Ken is very good. But he has a reputation of losing the room quickly, usually in about 18 months. Its not an issue for the young kids that we have now, but for a 10 year vet, its not a very attractive feature if you want to go where your skill set can be utilized on a nightly basis.
    This team is not going anywhere with MacLean at the top. In tonite’s press conference Hitch said that he did not have the horses to compete with Detroit. So, Ken has now drawn a line in the sand. Brule was a minus two against the fourth line of Detroit and what Hitchcock was suggesting is that Brule as a high pick is not good enough to even center a fourth line in the NHL. I wonder if MacLean and Hitch get along at this time of the year? Stay tuned, it could get nasty.


  2. Patrick, you raise a lot of issues here and I want to attempt to address them. I appreciate your comments and value the insights you offer.

    “Before Brett Hull opens his mouth he should qualify each comment with” Even though I won a Stanley Cup with Ken Hitchcock back in 1999, he was perhaps the worst coach I have ever played for”. I also think that he should preface any comment with a disclosure stating that he and hard work are never mentioned in the same sentence.

    “MacLean has not drafted well.” Well, right. He has not drafted well, he has not hired well, and he has not planned well. His free agent acquisitions have been unproductive. But he does have a radio show.

    “And to add to the list of why a free agent may not want to come: Hitchcock. Technically Ken is very good. But he has a reputation of losing the room quickly, usually in about 18 months. Its not an issue for the young kids that we have now, but for a 10 year vet, its not a very attractive feature if you want to go where your skill set can be utilized on a nightly basis.” Now this is an area that the local press and most bloggers have stayed away from. Personally, I thought anyone could have won in Dallas with the roster Hitchcock had. But I do believe that it was a no-win situation for Hitchcock in Philadelphia with the roster and management that the Flyers had.

    So, to stop my dancing here, I want to give Hitchcock a season or two to see what he does. Columbus hasn’t had a real coach for some time, so patience is needed. I have heard all of the stories about Hitch, both first-hand and in the press, and am holding my breath. The Blue Jackets probably need an ass-kicker for a season to get them headed in the right direction. Scotty Bowman changed his ways after he got to Detroit; maybe Ken Hitchcock will see some value in modifying his style and methods.

    The one issue that you and hundreds of others mention is the General Manager. Everybody but the McConnell family wants a new person in that position, but for some reason, they don’t seem to share our opinion. If you evaluate MacLean using hockey criteria, he has not succeeded. If you evaluate MacLean using business criteria, he would have been terminated three years ago. I have no idea how he keeps his General Manager position. Either the McConnell’s know something that we don’t, or they are not using good judgment on this, or they consider the fans to be idiots, or they just don’t care what the fans think.


  3. Don’t all expansion teams initially have to pay a “premium” for good free agent talent? I doubt very few good free agents would want to play for an expansion team without considerable compensation since they know the team’s going to suck. Very, very few expansion teams are worth anything their first few years of existence. Columbus has not been any different except for the fact they haven’t shown much improvement or progession over the last 2 or 3 years. To me, that is troubling.


  4. True, but is Columbus still an expansion team?


  5. By definition, no. But in all other aspects, clearly.

    As long as Doug MacLean’s brain is running the show, this will be an expa… wait, I have an even better thought.

    Less of a problem is the fact that Columbus is still an expansion team (strict definition aside, and team being players, coaches). The larger issue is that the Jackets are an expansion franchise. Top to bottom.

    Grr… and I swore I wouldn’t get sucked into this today.

    Thanks for stopping by everyone!



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