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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ken Hitchcock's firing a bit surprising, but necessary

The Columbus Blue Jackets, central Ohio's only professional sports franchise, fired head coach Ken Hitchcock today. And while many hockey fans may be shocked at the dismissal of a fan and player favorite, I feel that this move was justified for several reasons. If one takes a look at the direction this team has been headed this season, it does not add up. Columbus was coming off its first playoff season since joining the National Hockey League as an expansion franchsie in 2001, and appeared to be building on that success to start 2009-2010, as they won 6 of their first 9 games in the Western Conference's Central Division. They have since gone into a tailspin that few teams with their start do, falling to five games below .500, last in their division and 14 points behind the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference. Not only that, but the Blue Jackets have lost 7 of their last 11 games, with six of those losses being decided by two or more goals. Sure, other teams in the NHL making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise's history have experienced a letdown the following season, but I would venture to say few have fallen as far as the Jackets have. More than that, however, is that the team never became the aggressive juggernaut that Hitchcock had envisioned. This lack of aggressiveness can even be traced back to the end of last season when, after the Blue Jackets had clinched a spot in the playoffs, they proceeded to lose four of their last five regular season games, only to then be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. But not everything "Hitch", as they liked to call him in Columbus, did was bad. After all he did lead the team to its first playoff appearance, and he helped forward Rick Nash unlock his true potential. Let's hope that the next coach can take these positives and lead the team to be the playoffs contenders fans have come to expect.

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