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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Coaching stabilized


The Jackets have found their man behind the bench and they aren't planning on letting him go.

The Dispatch has just announced that head coach Ken Hitchcock has been extended for 3 years. That will make him the bench boss through the 2011-2012 season.

To me this is fantastic news. The Jackets have desperately needed stability behind the bench and now they have it in a proven winner with "Hitch".

Hitch led the Jackets to their best season ever last year with a 34-36-12 record good for 80 points. Yes they fell short of the playoffs and no it was not considered a good year but this team played its most competitive hockey by far to date. Hitch layed a foundation, created a team identify and exposed this roster for what it was which was a mess from top to bottom.

That said he got the best years to date out of cornerstones Rick Nash and Pascal Leclaire. He also led this team to the 8th best goals against average in the league. Unfortunately he just didn't have the horses offensively or the competitive level high enough to sustain the high level of play required to be successful for an entire season. The team really imploded down the stretch after the trade deadline and when a rash of injuries hit.

Last season was a neccessary step to get where we need to be -- unfortunately it should have happened a few years prior.

As painful as it was, last year was an evaluation year for new GM Scott Howson as he made some tough decisions, let bad contracts expire and made management changes. Obviously he liked what he saw with Hitch and values him greatly otherwise this extension never happens.

I wasn't as worried as much about Howson wanting Hitch back as I was Hitch wanting to come back. Lets face it this guy wants to win and win now. Enough of this building towards the future stuff. That doesn't mean he would want to sell off our young assets for a one year run it just means he wants to do what it takes to give this team a fighting chance. I'm sure before he signed this contract he wanted to see a commitment from ownership and management to bring a winner here....now.

By signing this contract its signals that he's seen that commitment this offseason.

....and it this extension makes sense on a lot of levels.

Hitch and Howson both have share the same philosophy on how to build a contender and it starts from the net out with competitive players. No "cheap skill" as both men would say. Together they know the holes in this roster and went to work this offseason to fill them.

The style they are building (which I've dubbed "Hitchockey") isn't sexy but its effective and it should translate into wins and boy could this franchise use a lot more of those.

Some fans will say "but he doesn't play the younger players". I say hogwash. How much did Rick Nash, Nik Zherdev and Pascal Leclaire play last year? What about Kris Russell and Jared Boll? I don't think Hitch cares how young, how old, how big, how small, black/white/red/purple or from what country -- if you can help this team win you'll play.

Or his teams "don't score and trap". Again bologne. Go back and look at his years with the Dallas Stars and Philly Flyers -- just about everyone of those teams was top 10 in goals scored.

This offseason they've let go and brought in players that meet their philosophy. Again not the sexiest of names but guys who will compete hard every night and work as a team in Tyutin, Commodore, Torres, Umberger and Huselius.

Howson is fully aware that we could use more high end skill but that is going to have to come from our draft picks with guys like Voracek, Brassard, Russell and Filatov.

I'm excited about this extension. To have that stability on the bench is a big big deal. For to long did the franchise take the route of the coaching carousel. With the transition year all but concluded I'm excited to see what this duo can accomplish with this new group of players.

Hitch will certainly have his work cut out for him b/c as a reader posted in the comments with this much turnover to a roster its a big job to bring them all together and mold them into a team quickly. The great news is that this is the kind of challenge Hitch drools at the opportunity to tackle.

..and besides I've always been a fan of calling the Blue Jackets bench "Hitch's Cockpit" so I'll get to use that phrase at least 4 more years.

Discuss - are you excited about Hitch getting extended?

-LTL

10 comments:

Shaggy said...

I'm lovin' it. While I was skeptical of some of the off season moves, if Hitch likes 'em enough to sign an extension, then I like 'em.

jeff e. said...

I wasn't too worried about Hitch wanting to leave. Though I know he wants to win and win now, I've read in several interviews where he's said teaching and coaching are his passion. Well if there's any team in the league that needs some disciplined teaching and coaching, the Blue Jackets are it.

Todd G said...

I think it great that the orginization has made a commitment to Hitch and in turn he's making a commitment to the orginization. Hitch likes what he sees and thinks he can mold this group into winners. I trust him.

I lived in Dallas in the late 90's and saw what Hitch can do first hand when he he's given a full deck to play with. We're a few cards shy but should get a few steps closer this year. Can't wait!!

Jeremy said...

I was at the season ticket holder Q&A last night and went into in apprehensive about what I was going to hear. I was not a huge fan of the Zherdev trade but it is growning on me and see Hitch talk about the team he has this year was amazing. You could see a difference in his eyes and hear a difference in his voice. He was truly excited about his chances of putting a winner on the ice this year.

I left that Q&A more excited than I have ever been for the coming season.

LTL said...

Jeremy - thansk for the insight on the sesssion last night. That gets me even more excited!

-LTL

Matt said...

Very, very happy to see this taken care of. We're going somewhere, I think, and having Hitch secure is a big thing.

Mattlund said...

Hitch and Peca like the changes. They are two "hockey smart" men that I respect. They wouldn't have stayed unless they liked what they saw. They like the direction. Now lets see the results.

sdjeggle said...

I like the fact that this solidifies Hitch as looking for long-term solutions to turning the CBJ into winners, not just a "finally got to the playoffs" quick-as-possible fix. It's the most reassuring thing that has happened this off-season (and I like a LOT of the moves)! Go Jackets!

Max said...

I'm extatic! MacLean's best GM move was to bring Hitchcock in, and I'm glad to see he'll be back a long time.

Anonymous said...

max--Maclean had nothing to do with Hitch being hired. In fact, he flat out said that 'he would never hire that guy'...Mr. Mac hired Hitch, Maclean just happened to be there.