The big news of the day is the very real possibility of the axe falling on both GM Scott Howson and Head Coach Scott Arniel in favor of former NHL GM Craig Button and the only head coach who has ever had even an ounce of success in Columbus - Ken Hitchcock.
Before I address that situation I just finished watching the latest loss so let's first jump into that.
1. I'm an equal opportunity basher so let's talk goaltending. It's no secret I've been a big believer that the Jackets had to change up the goaltending to see if a spark could be found - even if it is rookie Allen York. I mean it couldn't get any worse right? Well, the good news is it didn't get any worse. The bad news is it didn't get any better either. It was a different goaltender but same results. Another game, another 4 goals (sans the empty netter) given up. Another game, another opposing goaltender outplaying ours. In fact, York looked a lot like Mase back in there. He had his moments (nice wrap around save on Hossa in the 2nd for an example) but there were no big saves... There were big rebounds. There were untimely goals allowed. That isn't really saying much for Mason either given this was York's first start in the NHL. Still I was happy to see Arniel change it up and actually wouldn't mind seeing York given another shot back there (which certainly won't happen tonight).
2. Can we just ice 20 Vinny Prospals? I want 12 Vinny forwards. I want 6 Vinny defensemen. I even want 2 Vinny goaltenders. I absolutely love this guy. What a treat to watch. It's too bad he'd never dream of resigning here. What a pro though.
3. Nice to see Derek MacKenzie get a shot at the top line. He won't be there permanently but never understood why this guy doesn't get more ice time -- certainly more than a guy like Sammy Pahlsson. He doesn't have that much skill in the scheme of NHL players -- but the dude works his ass off every shift. If nothing else, I as a fan, appreciate a player working his ass off in a CBJ sweater. Was great to see his hard work rewarded with a goal.
4. Well bright side the PK didn't give up a goal for once (and was nice to see 61 back out there killing penalties). Dark side -- the PP gave up a short handed goal. If there is a way to lose -- this team will find it.
5. Still missing - RJ Umberger and Antoinne Vermette. If anyone finds them please pick up the nearest phone and dial 1-614-246-PUCK.
6. There is more to say like bad team defense, no PP goals, Wiz/Tyuing 30+ mins in playing time, Wiz's first point as a Jacket -- but let's get to the real topic at hand. I don't really think it's a question of "if" at this point - but "when" a major shakup is going to occur to this franchise.
Something just has to give. You can't drop 64+ million on a roster and start the season 1-9-1 with no consequences. It just cannot happen regardless of injuries/suspension/etc. As the Florida Panthers GM said - "We are in a performance business and I wasn't happy with our team's performance"
If the Jackets lose tonight against Anaheim I fully expect the axe to fall on someone. If they win then this will probably string out a little longer - especially considering the Jackets next game isn't until Thursday versus the Leafs.
The question we should all be asking is if the rumored Button/Hitch combination is true (they are both already denying it) and if so, is this the right answer?
As for the truth of the rumors?
Who knows but certainly serious discussions have to be happening behind the curtains. If not, then we really are screwed b/c apparently upper management doesn't give a **** and enjoys flushing 64+ million down the drain.
I don't care who you are -- NOBODY enjoys flushing dough down the drain. So I think we can all make a simple assumption that major changes are being seriously discussed.
At a 1-9-1 record the playoffs are toast - that's reality. But you can't just throw in the towel - you have to at least make it look like you're trying to get this train back on it's tracks to retain what season ticket holders you have left and provide a glimmer of hope for next season.
The question now is what next? Here are the three scenarios I see:
1. Major trade
Callups aren't going to get it done. A trade for a depth dman or forward is not going to get it done. Only a major trade could possibly shake things up enough to at least get this team on the winning track. Like it or not, the biggest shakeup would be trading Rick Nash.
2. Fire GM/Coach
Just firing another coach and letting the same person hire a replacement will not be enough. I also can't see a scenario where Hitch could coexist with Howson again -- that bridge is burnt. I don't think putting Hitch in place is out of the realm of possibilities but a new GM would have to be brought in for that to occur. Maybe it's a temp situation - more on that in a sec.
3. Do nothing now and ride out the season.
The idea here is this season is lost, so ride it out, get a high pick and absolutely CLEAN HOUSE at the end of the year. Everyone is out from Priest on down.
I have a problem with all three of these scenarious.
1. I don't think anything should be off the table including dealing Rick Nash. My problem is I don't trust this braintrust to make a great trade. And if you're trading Rick Nash you have to get a GREAT return. I'm talkin overpayment. They are in "save their own skin" mode and there is a very big possibility Howson will get taken to the cleaners. The best time to make such a move would be the offseason under new management.
2. Tough to make such a major change in season. I also do not trust a non-hockey guy in Mike Priest to make the right replacement hires. I mean afterall, he hired Scott Howson to begin with. If the Jackets make a change I want to see a hire from a successful organization like Nashville or Detroit and nobody is going to leave an organization like that mid-season. I also would question the hiring of a retread like Craig Button who had mixed success as an NHL GM.
3. The biggest problem with doing nothing and riding out the season is you are going to alienate a lot of the season ticket holders remaining. My guess is cut in half the number of renewals.
I actually think the best situation might be a combo of 2 and 3.
Hitch is in the final year of his deal. I highly doubt he wants to stay in Cbus long term after the way he was canned here. But it could benefit him to step back behind the bench, rescue what's left of this season and use it as currency to grab another open HC job in the league at the end of the season. He coaches the remainder of the year then the new GM hires his staff.
The Jackets hand over the GM reigns to the Assistant GM Chris MacFarland on an interim basis. His strick orders will be no major moves will be permitted and to unload what vets he can at the deadline while collecting as many assets as he can (picks/prospects).
After the season Priest moves on to a different position at Worthington Industries. A conslutant is hired (Scotty Bownman type) to in bring the right President for this franchise who then hires his GM who hires his staff, so on and so forth.
This accomplishes a couple of things:
1. One it shows the fans they aren't "giving up". I get the feeling most fans would welcome Hitch back - even on a temp basis. I know I would and given he's already under contract - makes the most sense.
2. It also shows those voting on this arena lease issue this franchise isn't "giving up".
3. It keeps the door wide open to make sweeping changes in the offseason from the President on down. A "fresh start" will be a big sales pitch in trying to market this team again next season.
4. Chances are very high we get a top 5 pick this season (if not higher) which, in a deep draft, can be a nice piece to reboot this thing with. People don't want to hear this - but this is a pretty good year draft wise to suck. It also leaves any major roster decisions in the hands of the new regime and that will include making this key pick.
Man, what a mess. Even this team's biggest detractors (guilty as charged) could not have seen this coming. The timing is also horrible given the Buckeye's struggles and arena lease solution. Apparently rock bottom does not exist with this franchise.
Jackets take on Anahiem tonight who got shut out by the Preds on Friday. They will be hungry.
It will be interesting to see what occurs after this game. But one thing seems clear - that axe is being sharpened!
Fire away - Thoughts on Button/Hitch rumors? What would you like to see happen?