Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock
looks as if he's aged forty years in the past four days. And rightfully so. His team's performance has been brilliant in minute stretches, pitiful in large quantities and unspirited for the majority. After a solid start to the season, his team is now last in goal-scoring in the National Hockey League, and have fallen from a top eight position.
He looks taxed. He looks tired. He looks stressed. Why shouldn't he be? This man, as highly revered as he is around the game, has squeezed every ounce of worth out of his 23 players. They are at the brink, and they are about to break.
And it's not his fault
. Not even close.
He brought his philosophy, determination and absolute love
for coaching to a team that never knew stability in any regard. He was hired based on his track record by a man that had no interest in doing so, a man pressured by ownership to hire a winner. Doug MacLean knew his job rode on the person he hired for the head coaching job. He certainly brought in the right man, but left a mess that not even the Jesus of Dirt Devils could clean up.
The first few weeks of his coaching tenure gave the fanbase hope, but most importantly, he gave his players hope. He instilled in them the belief that in order to be where they were, there was no doubt they were skilled, talented professional hockey players. A team that was 5-14-1 suddenly had aspirations of the playoffs, and quickly learned what it meant to play as a group of five.
But times have changed. Oh, have they changed.
The team that stumbled out of the All-Star break
has won two of the past eleven games, scored more than three goals only once (5-1 win in Detroit) and has been plagued by rookie mistakes made by veteran players. Players that wear "C"'s and "A"s. The coach is at a loss. Can't blame him.
He's waving a white flag to management, and for a man who has done so much for the organization in his short time here, he deserves better. His team only boasts three top-six players (Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, Fredrik Modin) and his defense is young and hapless at times. General manager Scott Howson needs to step up. Hitchcock knows what it takes to get his team to the playoffs, and many people could tell you exactly what's on his mind. He wants a goal-scorer.
The head coach declined to speak to the media
following tonight's game in Toronto. Most likely not because he's angry or busy berating his players who put forth another worthless effort, but because he's out of explanations. What can he say? "We didn't win the battles, we didn't compete, and several players were under the bar."
If I'm Ken Hitchcock, and my team is in the position it's in
, I can't believe that an organization so hungry for the playoffs hasn't thrown me a bone. The buzz is surrounding the impending free agents, but why is there no talk of acquiring help? Hitchcock has been answering questions solely about Adam Foote, Sergei Fedorov and others--where are they going, will they be able to help another team in its run to the playoffs?
Wait, what about my team? he says. No response. They're busy signing Jason Chimera to a four-year extension.
Busy times, these.