A Change is Needed
After the game, I took some time to relax, and brainstorm what exactly I wanted to say here.
Then PhillyPhan85 wrote the post I was thinking of, except from the other perspective. So, it still seems fitting to write this.
Something needs to change. I agree with PhillyPhan that it's between Steve Mason and Scott Arniel. At this point, I can't put blame on Scott Howson. He assembled a roster of mostly skilled players and addressed the biggest needs as best as he could. But he can't make these players play. That's the coaches job.
Now, while Mason by no means should get off easy, I think the focus has to be on Arniel. Mason has nothing to do with the power play, which should be better than ever, yet couldn't score on the league's worst penalty kill Thursday against Toronto. Assistant coach Todd Richards is supposed to be a power play specialist. So either he's failing, Arniel is getting in his way, or the players aren't playing.
When players like R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette are playing pretty awful hockey, yet it takes weeks for Ryan Johansen to get a shot in the top six, meanwhile Matt Calvert, Cam Atkinson, and Maksim Mayorov were all at one point sent to the AHL, it just doesn't make sense. Had Johansen not been given the chance to shine, he'd be back in Portland right now.
There's more than enough blame to go around. But Arniel is supposed to be good with developing young players. He supposed to have instilled an uptempo style and an aggressive work ethic. He's supposed to have brought in a new perspective. "Hardcore hockey," right? But it's failed. What reason should any of us have to believe this team, as currently constructed, can turn things around? Players have mostly become stagnant or have regressed in their development.
The team needs to make a change before this situation gets any worse and puts any positive progress back another 2-3 years.
Mike made the point that perhaps Ken Hitchcock should be put back in charge, and if he can put his ego aside and accept it, Arniel should remain on as an Associate Coach for the rest of the season. If it wouldn't be too awkward (Hitch coming back in the first place would be a bit awkward), I think this is a great idea.
Maybe, like many of his players, Arniel just needs a little more development under sound leadership.