Dose of Reality #53

June 10, 2007

Do the Jackets really understand their fan base?  The mood of many fans has not sunk to one of desperation yet, but there is a feeling out there that the team may be on a path that is non-recoverable.  The team can’t seem to get a handle on the GM search, the foundation upon which the future success of the franchise depends.  This chapter is just the latest in a story filled with mistakes and errors and although the team is trying to take its time to make the best decision, the new GM should have been in place by now.

Reports from various sources say that the season ticket sales are down almost 10% from last season, with a renewal rate of 80% at this time.  Management must see these numbers as acceptable for a team that has floundered so badly.  But do they think that similar renewal numbers will be in order next year if the team once again fails to improve?  If I were a senior CBJ executive, I would be concerned about a large number of season ticket holders calling it quits and throwing their money at some other venue.  Mr. McConnell, they are not going to take it any more.

I do not expect the team to make the playoffs next season because of the players and contracts that are in place.  Unless the new GM can convince another GM to take some of the aging players away, the team does not have much room to bring along the future players.  Expensive guys like Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote will see large amounts of ice time, players like Westcott, Malhotra, and Zherdev will do what players of their kind can do, and Jody Shelley will cash his checks.

With a big-time coach in place for the next few years, the new GM will have to find a way to work with and get along with Ken Hitchcock.  He better accept Hitchcock’s player needs fully or else look for another job.  Hitch is here to stay and will coach the team the way he sees fit, regardless of who wears the GM badge, because he was here first and is the one who will save us, as John McConnell said.

I think that having a powerful coach in place is one of the reasons that Bob Murray and others may have said no thanks to the Blue Jackets.  For Bob Murray to come in here and risk his reputation and hockey career on a team as bad as Columbus, he would want to be given nearly complete control.  But Mr. McConnell already gave Doug MacLean complete control and it was a disaster.  He is not going to make that mistake again.

We fans are now watching the team work something out, a plan that more-or-less says Ken Hitchcock will crack the whip and get the team to work harder and not lose as much and/or as poorly as they have in the past.  This is to keep the seats filled.  He won’t have much to work with, but he will draw high praise from the Hockey Press for his efforts and results.  The best expected finish is for the Jackets to be in the hunt for a playoff spot at the end of March.

The other part of the plan calls for the new GM to get along with Hitchcock, get him the players that he needs to not lose as much or as badly as they once did, to do it with low player salaries, to find value out there through the scouting department, and to unload one or two of the expensive players.

If you know of a candidate out there who could do that, send his name on to Mike Priest so he can hire him as GM as soon as possible.

If the team is out of it by February 1st again next season, we could be praying that Les Wexner will take his excess cash from the sale of his Limited divisions and buy into the team.  Because if a local person doesn’t come forward, we might see a replay of Nashville here.

-Truth Serum


One comment

  1. The hiring of Hitchcock was all backwards to begin with because MacLean should have been fired first then hired his own coach. The situation we have now in Columbus is exactly what happened in Toronto a few years back when Pat Quinn had the GM title taken away from him and the top brass went out and hired John Ferguson Jr. The year that transpired between Quinn and Ferguson was very uncomfortable even though each handled the situation well. In the end Paul Maurice was hired to coach the Leafs and Ferguson had more control of the team.

    The next GM in Columbus will not have full control until Hitchcock is gone or fired or quits none of which will happen in the near future. Say what you want about the MacConnells, they may have had the best intentions but it now looks disjointed to say the least.

    Your right when you say this team is a few years away from the playoffs. What Hitch has to figure out is who are the guys that will lead him to the most wins. The answer as always with Hitch is with the vets. Next season will be the foundation for the next couple of seasons that will establish the template for the Jackets securing a playoff spot. Any team in the NHL will need about 95-100 points to sniff at the playoffs which translates into about 42-47 wins over the season. The Jackets had what 33 wins last year so to get another 10 or so wins will take better goaltending and a stronger defence corps. Neither of these solutions will come easily. And I think the new GM, having done the math realizes this. This is another reason why it will be difficult to hire any new GM.

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