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Dear coaching staff

October 15, 2008

Well that didn’t take long.  Three games into the season, and I’ve already had my first “turn off the TV, toss the remote and go to bed” meltdown.  Which, you know, means I still had one less meltdown than the Jackets did last night.

Short-handed goals will happen.  When they’re the result of lazy offensive-zone passing that results in a breakaway, it’s understandable if still irritating.  When they’re the result of miscommunication between goaltender and defensemen retreiving a cleared puck from behind the goal line, it’s really not good for my blood pressure.  And when the same type of miscommunication happens twice in the same game, I want to put a remote control through the screen of my Panasonic.

There are new faces on the team, I get it.  But you’ve been together on the ice for practice and games for over a month now.  Learn your calls, talk to each other, and figure it out.  Giving the puck away below the goal line twice on a power play and then not having your backcheckers pick up the shooter who is wide open for target practice is unacceptable.  TWICE!!!

The first period last night, the team looked the best I’d seen them so far this year.  The passing was crisper (to sticks/skates, instead of to a general area the passer thought the recipient should be), puck possession was there, and the team was physical in each zone.  When the skates hit the ice for the second period, the wobble in the bicycle started before the wheels fell off in the third.

I missed watching almost all of Game 2 against Phoenix, but saw the entire opener against Dallas and all but the last ten minutes or so of the game late last night.  In each of the contests, I’ve coached the TV to calm down.  When things get away from the gameplan, the Jackets stop playing good positional hockey and start “freaking out”, chasing, and losing.  Playing cool, calm, collected hockey is not even close to a sixty minute affair at this point.

Against Dallas, lack of strong, sound play resulted in penalties and getting guys stuck out on the ice.  On the penalty kill, it is important to clear the puck from the offensive zone (even if only an inch), as this forces the offense out of the zone and gives a few seconds of repreive.  It’s also important to get the puck deep in the opponent’s defensive zone a few times, as this gives all four penalty killers a chance to change up.  Not having fresh legs on the ice hurts your penalty kill, and if you manage to survive the two minutes down a man, it can also hurt those critical seconds following the end of a penalty.  Not being able to get tired penalty killers off and put fresh legs on the ice can result in the team “not being at full strength while at full strength”.  Make sense?

So in closing, I’m hoping that a few minutes of work will be put in tomorrow on those lesser points of the power play.  Namely, getting the puck out from behind your own net.  If I see another short-handed goal as a result of the bad communication we all witnessed last night, I’m done with hockey.  You know, until the next game starts, anyway.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.  (Maybe I’ll even write more than once every two to three months, whaddya say?)

– Drew

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