Monday, January 9, 2012

Unlucky Number Seven... Beheaded

Here's how bad the situation has been in Columbus: I started drafting this post in the early-morning hours of December 23, after that mother of all collapses against Nashville.

I really thought that was the proverbial straw, you know?

But it wasn't, and now I have to change everything.

*sigh*

Well anyway, now the hammer has fallen.

123 games. 45 wins. 45-60-18 overall.

41 games this year. Eleven wins. 11-25-5 total.

It was time. It was past time, really.

But just like that, the tumultuous tenure of the Columbus Blue Jackets' seventh coach has come to an end.

Gracelessly.

Some 26 hours after a somewhat impressive -- if offensively un-fantastic -- win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Blue Jackets were well on their way to getting their asses handed to them by a team that was quite possibly a hotter mess than they were.

Sure, they managed to show some fire after spotting the Anaheim Ducks a 4-1 lead. However, the Ducks showed they are considerably better at holding a lead than the Jackets are.

Was Arniel the whole problem? Absolutely not. There is an obvious lack of leadership on the ice, as well.

To make matters worse, the organization has spent itself into a corner with its current top-five payroll.  Even as -- barring the miracle I discussed a few days ago -- the Jackets look to be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, there is not a whole lot of flexibility to move players with the biggest contracts to make cap room to rebuild yet again.

That is, if Howson elects to go that route. If he survives the offseason... but that's a discussion for down the road.

When the players don't pan out -- especially when the team is built to fit a coach's system or vision -- the first place you have to look is the coach. There comes a time when someone new has to come in and motivate them.

It sucks not having solid leadership. It sucks for the team. More importantly, it sucks for the fans. We expected so much better this year.

The timing of this move makes it worse. Other coaches who have gone to the guillotine did so after somewhat rocky starts -- a couple of them were even above .500. But Howson stuck by the guy he hired. Perhaps too long.

We not only watched the team melt down. We watched Arniel melt down.

You know what, you as a coach can blame yourself. You can blame the guys in the locker room.

When you get to the point that you're blaming he media... you're never going to win that battle. Anyone who tries to blame the media -- no matter what profession we're speaking of -- comes out looking like an ass.

Arniel joined that club a little over a week ago with the whole "You're piling on, I can show you the stats on that" incident.

I'm not celebrating this day. Sure, I've joked about it before this, and I'll sure as hell joke about it afterwards.

Sure, there is a sense of relief in being able to move on. The problem is, that opportunity to move on in a positive direction is probably too late.

The timing of this firing feels like giving up. It doesn't take a mathematician to see the CBJ are almost out of it.

And with the NHL and NHLPA looking like a pissing contest is about to get underway going into collective bargaining, even "wait 'til next year" doesn't look too certain.

This had to happen. But it had to happen sooner.

41 games to go. Eight regulation losses will put the Playoffs out of reach.

Okay, Coach #8 Todd Richards... that's your cue.

Go Jackets!

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