Behind the Bench, Above the Problem

Scott Arniel walked to the podium for the post-game press conference last night looking more distraught than usual. For weeks the Blue Jackets’ coach has fallen under scrutiny for his team’s poor performance. However, Columbus’ latest setback seemed to sting the coach more than any criticism. Perhaps it was the way his team squandered an early two-goal lead that disturbed Arniel, though it appeared there was a bigger meaning behind his somber state. With a 3-13-1 record, is it possible Arniel has done all he can?

After the devastating 9-2 loss to Philadelphia, Arniel placed his focus on clogging up the middle of the ice. Doing this would limit odd man rushes and increase turnovers. In recent games, this strategy has worked as expected. Against Chicago, the Blue Jackets contained all the Blackhawks’ rushes until Patrick Kane broke free for a breakaway goal. Last night, the Wild did not score on an odd man rush until midway through the third period.

Over the course of eleven seasons, the Blue Jackets have never had success with its special teams unit. Last night, they scored shorthanded and power play goals, which could be a sign of more to come.

Though the fact remains that the Blue Jackets lost, and despite the changes Arniel has made, the Blue Jackets still sit in the cellar of the Western Conference thus making the idea of firing Arniel all the more interesting.

The possibility of ousting the coach is one route the Blue Jackets have made clear they have no problem taking. However, how would Columbus react to the release of Steve Mason or Rick Nash?

Was it fair that Scott Arniel was interrogated after Mason let in seven goals in the Blue Jackets’ 9-2 loss to the Flyers? Should his job performance be examined after Rick Nash missed a golden opportunity to tie the game against Minnesota? Can Columbus question the roster changes Arniel has made when injuries and suspensions have plagued the team?

In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is no.            

Arniel has made an effort to control all he can control, and then let the rest play out on the ice. Unfortunately, his team has not performed. For twenty seconds last night, Columbus stopped playing. In this time frame, the Wild erased a two-goal deficit.             

Then in the third period, they did not clog up the middle of the ice. As a result, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck cut into the Blue Jackets’ zone and notched the game-winning goal.            

It comes down to execution and unless Arniel laces up his own skates and throws on the union blue, he is not to blame.

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