Ding dong…

April 22, 2007

Wicked Witch of the East

Doug MacLean discovers that the Vegas saying really is true, the house always wins.


I’ve been trying to think for a few days now of exactly where I wanted to take this post.  I’ve been vocal in my disappointment with Doug MacLean since I created this blog over 14 months ago.  My discontent with his management style was part of the reason I started writing at the End of the Bench.  Oddly, you might call CGMDM the root source of my inspiration.

As the sharks swirled in the murky waters of the Scioto River the last many weeks, I’ve largely remained quiet on both the general manager and hockey in general fronts.  I sat on the couch Friday night watching San Jose eliminate Nashville, asking myself why I was not on the site every day waving my torch calling for MacLean’s head with the rest.  I also tried to figure out why I had only watched part of no more than three or four playoff games thus far.  I came to one conclusion.  Temporarily, at least, Doug MacLean killed hockey for me.

It’s sad, I know.  But that’s what I came up with.  I’ve watched the Blue Jackets franchise (that solidified my love of the game) be transformed from a promising first-year expansion team to the laughing stock of the NHL.  While the Jackets have never been statistically the worst team (in terms of points) at the end of any season, they’ve been awfully close each year.  The greatest thing any professional sports franchise can sell (especially in this age of free agency and salary caps) is hope.  Hope that your team can be competing for a championship at the end of each season.  Hope that you could witness the guys steal a seven game series and still be playing in May.  Hope that you’re not spending your hard-earned money on something that turns out to be gold-foil wrapped BS.  Hope… that’s all a fan needs.

From early October in 2000 to earlier this week, the hope rollercoaster in Columbus has had it’s rises and dips but has seen a pretty nasty net decline.  After finishing their first season with 71 points (an expansion club record), Blue Jacket fans packed themselves to the rafters 18,136 strong for every game of the second season.  Even suffering through a still-standing franchise record low of 57 points, the fans still showed up.  Hope was alive and well on Front Street, and all believed that there was nowhere to go but up.

Needless to say, it hasn’t happened that way.  The mismanagement of personnel, the rushing of prospects, the throwing of good money after bad players… it’s all been chronicled to exhaustion.  Truth Serum has done it here, the Dispatch has done a good job of laying it all out, and writers across the country have weighed in. 

I’m not here to pile on.  I’m here to remind my fellow Blue Jacket fans that hope has re-entered the equation.  It’s not likely to be this year that we as fans taste success, but at least we don’t have to feel like we’re lying to ourselves when we watch games and feel like there just might be a chance.

The Wicked Witch of the East is gone, it’s time to hit the Yellow Brick Road and set out for Oz.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

One comment

  1. The series of events that have unfolded this season are really not much different that what has transpired for many junior teams here in Canada. The problem we Canadians have is that we think we all know hockey and really we’re just super fans who don’t have a clue. If you have paid attention to the rants of John Torterella that were levelled against Larry Brooks of the New York Post, you get a sense of the way Doug MacLean felt here in Columbus. Unfortunately Doug had it backwards. He thought he had a clue how to start up a franchise and instead it was the people of Columbus who had the stones to realize that there was no winning with this team. Doug tried to blame the fans of Columbus for not “having a clue” because they “don’t know hockey”. Frankly none of us like to be embarassed more than say ten times a year. That shutout record really hurts let alone the one where we have the worst record in the NHL for the last 6 years or the one where no team except Columbus in the NHL has never made the playoffs.

    Ohio State had a rough year too in football and basketball but they did come second, twice. Sort of the Buffalo Bills of the NCAA. But I digress. Where Doug really skewered himself was on a radio program here in Canada called The Fan 590 which during dinner drive time is the top rated show in the country. The host Bob McCowan has Doug and Neil Smith on the show during the playoffs each season to give their humorus depictions of the goings on for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Lately though, Doug has been in damage control mode especially where the accuracy of Hitchcock comes to mind. To be brief, Doug fibbed and was caught and outed by McCowan last week. Doug insisted that it was his decision to hire Hitch and as we all know it was Mr. McConnell who pulled the trigger. In Canada there are reporters in the Hockey Hall of Fame who do daily journals in the papers. Rarely do these gentleman get it wrong. So,last Wednesday night, Jim Kelly and Eric Duhatcschuk each of the Hockey News and the Globe and Mail reported that Doug was a goner which is quicker than the guys at the Dispatch had the news.
    On Thursday’s program wasn’t McCowan and Jim Kelly patting themselves on the back congratulating themselves for having “broke” the MacLean firing.They then went on to say how dishonest Doug was with them and that they would give Doug a week or year to get over this dismissal. I bet dollars to a Tim Hortons’ doughnut that Doug never returns this phonecall.

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