After much speculation, head coach Ken Hitchcock has been relieved of his head coaching duties. Claude Noel will take over as interim head coach. The writing has been on the wall for the last month or more, with the team taking a massive step backwards this season.
With the old adage being "you can't fire 23 players", you knew something had to give. Hitch's message wasn't being delivered, and the result was the team was in shambles on the ice. There was no semblance of structure, no commitment to a plan. It was painfully obvious. The question now becomes whether or not the players tuned him out, or if it was just a matter of the organization coming to the realization that his style wasn't conducive to the young, skilled players the team possesses. I think it's the latter.
The Jackets are the youngest team in the NHL. You need to have strong character players to filter the coach's message, otherwise the players (especially the younger ones) can get down on themselves and play scared. I hate to say it, but the loss of Mike Peca was huge for the locker room. He was the brash veteran who could change the tune of the coach's rants and turn it into a message the younger players can work with. Rick Nash, the Captain, isn't the sort of character that can do that. In time, he'll make a phenomenal captain. That said, he is still young himself. The trade to bring in Chris Clark was too little, too late, you can't just bring in a guy half way through the season and expect him to step to the forefront and lead a team.
It all boils down to the fact that the team is too young and immature to practice what a demanding coach like Hitch preaches. The leadership was lacking in the locker room, and because of that the players were not playing the style he laid out for them.
On a personal level I have a ton of respect and admiration for Hitch. He has done things for me personally, which I won't get into in this space- and I will always remember him for taking the rag tag Columbus organization, giving it some credibility, and taking it to the playoffs for the first time.
Good luck to you Hitch, and thanks for everything.