Thursday, November 3, 2011

Okay, Everybody Just Calm The [bleep] Down

2-9-1.

For those playing at home -- and for those who aren't -- that is a lousy record for a hockey team to have 12 games into the season.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are, as you might imagine based on the above record, in last place in the Western Conference. They are also boasting (well, that's really not a good word for it, I guess) the fifth highest payroll in the NHL. Essentially, the Blue Jackets are this year, what the New York Rangers were in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Simply put: Talent unrealized.

Now, to be fair, the team is not exactly at full strength. Actually, the team isn't even close to intact. James Wisniewski sat the first eight games via suspension, Jeff Carter has been out for the last few with a foot injury, Radek Martinek remains out with concussion symptoms, and it looks like at least another week before we get to see Mark Dekanich in action, as he wraps up recovery from an ankle sprain.

I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm a strong believer in Ken Hitchcock's old mantra that injuries are not an excuse for an NHL team's poor performance. I still subscribe to it. The season doesn't take a break just because you have a couple guys out. Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs give a crap about the Jackets' injury situation going into Thursday's game?

Do the words "honey badger" mean anything to you? Exactly.

Let's face it, the Blue Jackets are not getting scoring from some of the guys that we are used to seeing doing the scoring. Looking at guys like Antoine Vermette. Derick Brassard. We're looking at a roster of so-called "core" players who got some long-term extensions, and helped push the Jackets' payroll to where it is today. These players (and quite a few others) need to get in the damn game already. They need to think about what they're doing out there, do a little introspection and figure out why they are not performing up to their potential. Or their paycheck.

The big reason: The NHL is a knee-jerk world. And when it comes to sports, Columbus is a knee-jerk kind of town. First scapegoat is always the coach.

One need look no further than just up the road at Ohio State. A scrambling, pieced-together Buckeyes team loses to a Miami team that, turns out, is pretty terrible. The game wasn't even over before social media was exploding with talk of firing Fickell, and the biggest nutjobs of Buckeye Nation pining for Urban Meyer.

I'm convinced a lot of them are the same ones calling in to The Fan calling for the ouster of one or both Scotts. Obviously, both of them are both justifiably on the spot here. No more "cleaning up after Doug MacLean's mess" talk about it. This team is Howson's baby now. Oh... and the Jackets are 2-9-1.

Arniel has been putting murderous minutes on the top defensemen lately and shortening the bench, instead of putting faith in having fresh, young players on the ice. Oh... and the Jackets are 2-9-1.

It's possible that the Jackets have had a glaring flaw exposed: Perhaps the Jackets don't have as much NHL-ready depth they have had in previous years. There are quite a few young guys on the team this year who need to find their legs in the NHL, find consistency, and grow up on the ice really damn quick.

Now the rumormongers and people blindly calling for firings are creating a distraction. Calm down, people.

Getting Ken Hitchcock to coach? Uh... no. Remember, the Jackets fired him essentially because he didn't seem to be getting through to the players anymore. Maybe that's the case with Arniel, maybe it's not. Like I said, though... the coach is usually the first to go in this case. Tossing around GM names to replace Howson? Idiotic, and honestly... pretty dickish. However, considering the factors I've discussed, there is an argument for Howson to go.

But cooler heads need to prevail here. Yes, it's a bad situation... but the roster may be close to intact again.

Let's be clear... are the coach and GM seats hot? Yes. Should they be? Sure.

Should they be vacated? Not yet. Who the hell do you put behind the bench as an interim coach? Who the hell runs the team the rest of the season? All that does is make a bad situation chaotic, and no one needs that, at least not 12 games in.

This team can come back, but it's up to the players here. Maybe Coach Arniel needs to do a quick yelling at the team after a loss, then pick a couple guys to meet John Michael outside the locker room to go explain why the team played like $#!+.

At least that beats a a Fox Sports OHIO interview with the game-winning goal scorer from the OTHER TEAM.

You like working with the coach, guys? Good.

You want to keep the system, guys? Great.

You want to win? Awesome!

So... get your $#!+ together and play some damn hockey.

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