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Next nine games prior to Olympic break are critical for Blue Jackets

By Peter D. McAlister

The Columbus Blue Jackets face off against the Nashville Predators tonight at Nationwide Arena with the hopes of turning, what has been, a dismal season around. With seven games at home over the next nine contests prior to the Olympics in Vancouver, it is imperative that the team and entire organization realize that they are at the crossroads of what soon may be a forgettable season. There is still hope in the fact that only Chicago and San Jose are distancing themselves from the pack in the Western Conference but the Jackets must do better than a win here and a loss there. A prolonged winning steak is their only cure.

It is obvious at this point that ownership and General Manager Scott Howson do not plan major changes for the franchise anytime soon so the weight of an unlikely turn around has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the players and coaching staff to step up and perform. If the Jackets are to duplicate their playoff drive of late last season three things have to happen.

First and foremost; the goaltending whether Steve Mason or Mathieu Garon must be out and out spectacular. While Mason is considered the franchise net minder Coach Ken Hitchcock must give serious consideration to Garon’s experience and superior play when evaluating who will start between the pipes. Hitch should throw all the statistics out the window and settle on just one guy if for anything else, confidence.

Secondly; veteran Jackets have to take the reins and be leaders on and off the ice be it forwards Rick Nash via the draft or R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette by way of trades. The defensive core lead by Jan Hejda, Fedor Tyutin and Anton Stralman must shut down opponents and push the boys to a new level that they are certainly capable of but have yet to exhibit in the 2009-2010 campaign.

Finally; it is time to adjust to the rest of the league. Ken Hitchcock and his staff have to change their philosophy to give members of the Jackets an opportunity to win night in and night out. If that means unleashing the players to wide open north-south hockey so be it. If unsuccessful, at least the team will go down swinging and play an exciting brand that fans will embrace and appreciate.

On Wednesday, Hitch will be at a local watering hole in the Arena District to do his weekly radio talk show and is understandably nervous. Give him credit for even venturing out during this season of CBJ fan discontent. As a Jacket backer I truly hope his experience at the R Bar is a good one after this evening’s matchup with Nashville. A loss to the Predators and it could get ugly with a loyal and hopeful fan base that wants nothing more than drive, effort and wins from this team. I should also mention the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

26 comments:

  1. great call, I will get back to you after the game while I pray all will be well and if not I am going to watch Hitchcock squirm tomorrow at the remote

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  2. When the Jackets win tonight will you concede to the obvious that they are building for the future and not the quick fix that you rail for?

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  3. The game just started and they are not losing yet. That is positive.

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  4. This club couldn't make the playoffs if the other eight teams above them in the race lost every remaining game. You are hopeful but dillusional.

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  5. They look good tonight killing off penalties and all. Maybe they turned the corner.

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  6. 1-0 after two, here we go to the third

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  7. Whew, oh well we won!

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  8. After tonight's win I am sure Blue Jackets fans want to know what you are going to bitch and complain about tomorrow!

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  9. We won and that is great but giving up two goals in the third worries me. Mason just didn't look sharp all night.

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  10. The D was strong tonight and the goals were on Mason. He is not sticking to a spot when challenged a wondering along the crease. He stays put at the onset and it is a shutout.

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  11. Maybe the Jackets will rebound but as a fan I have to see it to believe it. This team looks great one night and is a joke the next. Cudos to your article for calling out he veterans, they have been in the shadows all year.

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  12. Only seven points out of the playoffs playing like an AHL team who would have thunk it. The bar for the playoffs in the West is only 86 or 88 points right now. The East is evn worse.

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  13. There is still hope for my beloved Jackets. If the fans keep positive maybe the players will feed off that. No more negative and enough is enough.

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  14. Nervous there for a minute tonight at Nationwide but we pulled it off. Why can't these guys play like this every game. Mason is a train wreck as you pointed out earlier but the defensive bunch played well. Nash had a step tonight.

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  15. Hey Center Ice, an NHL goalie is not in their prime until the late twenties. Mason can't buy a beer yet. Maybe if the D would step up he would have a chance.

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  16. I said the defense played well anon boy.

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  17. As an Oiler fan I am stunned by the Jacket fan base. I commented before but Columbus won tonight for goodness sake. We are dead last and I mean dead in the West and you guys are complainng about a win. You have hope and we don't. Edmonton and Toronto forget about it.

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  18. Peter, if you go down to see Hitch's radio show at R Bar put a face behind your work and let coach know.

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  19. Looking at the standings today the Jackets are not as far out of the playoffs as you may think. A run in early February could put them right in the mix.

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  20. Peter, are you going to the R Bar tonight for the show? If so me and some friends who are also big hockey fans are going and usually sit in the corner by the courtyard entry. Introduce yourself cause you seem to have the most common sense about the Jackets of everyone who writes about them.

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  21. the Jackets are actully eight points out of the playoff race and not seven but there is hope after all with all the home games and stuff left on the schedule

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  22. Peter great to have Modin back in the lineup. Please stay healthy Freddie! You are right in your comments about the veterans because they must show the young guys what it takes to be playoff caliber.

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  23. Damn Mac you must be on Nationwide's do not fly list by now. Do the Jackets still let you into games? Howson probably has a bouncer at the doors just to throw you on your noggin.

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  24. Are you falling in to a trace and drinking the jackets koolaid no playoffs any year soon

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  25. once again 1-0 jackets early, lets just hope they hang on tonight

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