Now that I’m NO LONGER AT WORK I can react a bit more fully to the news of Hitchcock’s firing.
Honestly, I’m not surprised. With the Jackets still not turning the corner, and especially with some of the rather half-assed games of late (including last night’s — 10 minutes of really good play and 50 minutes of crap), the other shoe was bound to drop. With the organization starting a PR press around the arena issue, they couldn’t afford an apathetic and/or pissed off fanbase. And with the playoffs pretty much out of reach at this point, some sort of big change is about the only thing that’s going to get people interested.
I’ve said before on here that I was late to jump on the Fire Hitch bandwagon. I still don’t think what’s happened this season is entirely his fault. Had Steve Mason not been mired in such a sophomore slump…had Commodore been in game shape at the start of the season…had Klesla not been hurt…had Howson landed a better upgrade at D than Stralman — any of these being different could have changed the course of the season and had the Jackets at least in playoff contention right now. In which case I doubt we’d be talking about a coaching change. But it is what it is, and someone has to take the fall, and usually that’s the coach.
Hitchcock certainly did do a lot to move this team forward in the time he was here, and we ought not lose sight of that with how badly it’s gone this season. Rick Nash is a much better player than he was under Gerard Gallant. Hitch got the team into the playoffs for the first time. I respect what he did in his time here and wish him well in the future. But it was time to move on.
Even with a new coach, this team still has a whole host of personnel weak spots. So it’s probably too much to hope for a complete turnaround. It’s still going to be an uphill battle. Most teams do get at least a temporary boost from a coaching change, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them win their next few games. But then what comes after that?
I’m not in a big hurry to see them make a permanent appointment. I don’t think Noel is a guy for the long term, but let’s face it — this season is down the drain already. Just as well to let him handle the rest of the year and take the time to see who might be available come the summer and make damn sure they hire the right coach for the group of players who will still be here next year. I am intrigued by the Kevin Dineen idea, but I certainly don’t believe he is the only choice. I’m happy to see them wait and make a reasoned choice.