Kukla's Korner Hockey
“I don’t think of this as a step back. I made one mistake. You guys (in the media) can jump all over that if you want. I played well the rest of the way, so …”
-Columbus goaltender Steve Mason (via Aaron Portzline of Puck-rakers) on the Eric Belanger goal he gave up last night, which could be considered a weak goal.
from Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch,
The Dispatch asked two former NHL goaltenders, Daryl Reaugh and Ron Tugnutt, for their views on Mason’s season, the changes he needs to make and what his future might hold.
Reaugh, who played from 1984 to ‘91 with Hartford and Edmonton, does color commentary for the Dallas Stars. Tugnutt was active from 1987 to 2004 for a variety of clubs, including the Blue Jackets in their early years. He coaches goaltenders for a junior team in Oshawa, Ontario.
• What he sees: “Last season, he would get to his spot, stand there and defy guys to beat him. Now, rather than going to the spot he believes in and challenging the shooter, he’s going to that spot and he’s leaving that spot for no apparent reason. And when you chase the puck, you beat yourself. It’s a function of not trusting the defensive play in front of you. You’re worried about the shooter, but also the other guy whose lane might not be covered by your d-man.”
from Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald,
The Bruins [team stats] last night committed one of the cardinal sins of team sports: They let a team they should have been put away much earlier hang around and hang around - allowing a dreadful officiating call to decide the game at the end.
The word “dreadful” isn’t really sufficiently descriptive of the call by one or both referees, Tom Kowal or Dean Morton, that led to Columbus’ power-play goal with 1:31 left last night at the Garden, giving the Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory.
It was such a bad call, NHL officiating supervisor Mick McGeogh hurried down to Claude Julien’s office after the game and apologized to the B’s coach.
“The supervisor came in and apologized to us,” said Bruin general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He said it was a mistake. At least that was good of them to admit it.”
continue for more on the game…
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Management will leave room for a miracle but look forward with sobriety, which is to say that general manager Scott Howson will be selling when the trade deadline arrives March 3. Torres is in the final year of his contract. So are Milan Jurcina and Fredrik Modin, although Modin has a no-trade clause. These veterans have value, and, absent playoff contention, they should be dealt.
What will the Jackets get in return for, say, Torres? They won’t get the elite center or puck-moving defenseman they have craved for the entirety of their existence. They will get prospects and draft picks. So it goes. The long-range good of the franchise demands that assets be salvaged when and where possible.
There is a chance the Jackets will work out a contract extension with Torres before the trade deadline. But such shotgun negotiations normally do not fare well.
from Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, T
he last time Rick Nash went 11 games without scoring a goal, the Blue Jackets winger was a rookie playing on a line with Mike Sillinger and Grant Marshall.
In the fall of 2002, the baby-faced Nash was making $1.2 million a season for a fledgling franchise while most of central Ohio was enamored of the promise of another 18-year-old, named Maurice Clarett.
Times, fortunes and expectations have changed.
The Blue Jackets enter today’s game against Chicago as an underachieving club searching for goals and wins. During one of their worst stretches, Nash has struggled right alongside his teammates.
from Aaron Portzline of Puck-rakers,
The Blue Jackets knew what to expect in Chicago tonight. They knew the Blackhawks would be amped up, and they did a much better job anticipating the wave than they did two night ago in St. Louis.
And that makes the 3-0 loss in United Center even more troubling….
Interesting quote from Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash when I asked him if Chicago was the new Detroit:
“Yeah, Detroit has changed their style, and Chicago has picked it up. It’s a puck possession game. You don’t see them dumping the puck. You don’t see (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews dumping and chasing. They’re making plays.”
Nash is slumping badly. He’s gone 11 games without a goal, matching a record set during his rookie season. But it’s more than that. Nash had one shot on goal tonight, giving him just three shots on goal in his last three game and only nine in his last six games.
more on the Blue Jackets…
from Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch,
Hitchcock, the born salesman, thought hard about what his old boss was telling him. What was Hitchcock selling that the players weren’t buying? What could he find out about the players’ wants and needs? How could he get them back on a path to reaching their potential? Is there a different way?
Hitchcock bought a notebook and started jotting things down at night. He tends to make personalized notes to himself about each player. What is his personality, interests, needs? How can he get more out of the player? The group?
“The adjustment I have to make as a coach is to the personality of the team, which changes every year,” Hitchcock said. “And there are times when less is more.”
That is the nut of the epiphany. Hitchcock figures out he has to dial back, whether he is dealing with individuals or the team. He got to be the 11th-winningest coach in the 92-year history of the NHL by attending to the finest of details and demanding rigorous attention. Sometimes, less is more.
from Michael Arace at Puck-rakers,
Coach Ken Hitchcock, who has been under fire here in Columbus, fielded scads of questions from large media hordes during the recent Western Canadian road trip (which began with a 7-4 loss in Vancouver). The questions were variation of “Are you worried about getting sacked?” Hitchcock needed to escape. He saw some old friends in Edmonton, his hometown, and they provided a mental lift. Then came the victory over the Oilers.
“The whole season changed with the third goal in Edmonton,” Hitchcock said. “It made a difference on the bench, a difference in the locker room, a difference in the feel. The tension was everywhere. Oh, no, here we go again. Something bad is going to happen. When we (Kristian Huselius) scored the third goal in Edmonton, the whole season changed.”
Hitchcock was asked whether the 2008-09 Blue Jackets have entered the building. They have allowed two goals or less in seven of the past nine games.
“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t play like this the rest of the year. The players were comfortable with it. Obviously, it’s winning hockey. We’re grinding it out with some really good teams. Every night, if we play this way, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win. Seventy-five to 80 percent of scoring chances are coming off the check, which is what good teams do. Rather than looking for space, we’re fighting for space.”
from Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch,
Here’s the future I see every time I read a “Fire Hitchcock” post on the Internet:
Hitchcock is fired, and two weeks later he is hired by a struggling big-market team that can’t believe its good fortune. That teams surges, and a few months from now he has it in the playoffs, and winning. Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are sitting at home and the angry Internet posts are about losing Hitchcock and general manager Scott Howson doing something with the flawed roster.
And what of Hitchcock’s successor? It’s hard to believe team owners are going to pay big bucks to another coach with Hitchcock’s credentials, or find one willing to come here, so the new coach would likely be an unproven guy who might be good and to whom some of the players might relate better. But six months or a year from now, would the Blue Jackets really be better off with him than they would have been with Hitchcock?
The unhappiness over the Jackets’ prolonged funk is understandable. But the big picture is more important than what happened in Vancouver on Tuesday or in Edmonton last night. At this point in this lost season, it’s not about where the team is next month, but where it is next year and beyond.
from Tom Reed of Puck-rakers,
The Blue Jackets room was kept closed for several minutes after their 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Rexall Place last night.
Music was cranked and players let loose for a few moments. It’s doubtful many Jackets knew they had averted tying a franchise record for the longest winless streak (14 games). Ending the 13-game skid, however, brought temporarily relief and lots of smiles.
The scene is open to interpretation. They were celebrating for finally winning a game against the only team worse than themselves? Or, maybe it showed a lot guys care and there’s pride in the room, however wounded.
“It’s exciting to win again, but it’s just one game,” Jackets captain Rick Nash said. “We will enjoy it but there is another one (tonight). We will have to be ready.”
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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