Game 33 Preview: Arniel vs.Hitchcock. How Fitting.

Columbus Blue Jackets at St.Louis Blues

December 18, 2011 - 8:00pm EST
Scottrade Center - St.Louis, Missouri
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM - TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: St. Louis Game Time
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When the NHL schedule was first released, I identified the just-completed five game home stand as a crucial point in the season. Prior to the start of the year, I thought this stretch would be a fantastic opportunity for the Jackets to gain some points prior to the break, in what was hopefully a battle for the top of the division.It's obvious that things didn't work out that way, but I believe that the home stand was still crucial.

Crucial for the future of Scott Arniel as head coach.

So far, there have been six NHL head coaches fired this season already. All of those teams were struggling or looking for a shakeup, and all are ahead of Columbus in the standings. It's admirable that management and/or ownership has allowed Arniel to fight through the team's struggles, but there are no excuses left. The team's best players are healthy, the goaltending hasn't been a problem in over a month, but yet the team (which carries one of the highest payrolls in the league) still continues to lose on a regular basis. The recent home stand was an opportunity for Arniel to prove that this lineup could win. Instead, the team went 1-3-1. They looked out of sync, sloppy and disinterested. If this stretch of games wasn't the best litmus test, I don't know what it is.

Somewhat ironically, if tonight is Arniel's last game as Columbus' coach, it will be against the St.Louis Blues, coached by none other than Ken Hitchcock, the man that Arniel replaced with the Jackets.

The Jackets and Blues truly dislike each other, and tonight's game will no doubt be physical and nasty. Whether tonight is Arniel's last game or not, something has to give, and the irony of facing Hitchcock shouldn't be lost on anyone.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

(9-19-4, 22 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
Vinny Prospal Jeff Carter Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger
Mark Letestu Ryan Johansen
Antoine Vermette Derick Brassard
Derek Dorsett
Derek MacKenzie
Samuel Pahlsson
Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot James Wisniewski
Grant Clitsome John Moore
Curtis Sanford
Steve Mason

St.Louis Blues

(18-10-1, 37 Points; 2md Division, 6th Conference)

Alexander Steen
David Backes
T.J Oshie
David Perron
Patrik Berglund
Chris Stewart
Matt D'Agostini
Jason Arnott
Jamie Langenbrunner
Chris Porter
Scott Nichol
Ryan Reaves
Carlo Colaiacovo
Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman
Kevin Shattenkirk
Roman Polak
Kris Russell
Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Season Series:

27/11/11 St.Louis 2 at Columbus 1 - RECAP

By The Numbers:

STL - 2.45 G/G (25th)
CBJ - 2.28 G/G (28th)

STL - 1.97 GA/G (2nd)
CBJ - 3.19 GA/G (25th)

Power Play
STL - 11.1% (30th)
CBJ - 13.0% (27th)

Penalty Kill
STL - 81.3% (19th)
CBJ - 76.0% (28th)

Game Notes:

  • The Blues have the worst powerplay in the league, but the Jackets are near the bottom of the league in terms of PP and PK percentage. This won't be a special teams battle tonight, the game will be won five-on-five.
  • Vinny Prospal leads the Jackets in scoring, with 26 points in 32 games.
  • Rick Nash is the only Jackets with double-digit goals, with ten.
  • Nash is a team-worst -16 on the year.
  • The Blues top line of Backes, Oshie and Steen have ten goals apiece.
  • Former Jackets Kris Russell leads the Blues' defense in scoring, with 5-2-7.

While I never like to see a coach lose his job, and I'm certainly not promoting Arniel to lose his, I believe that now is the team to make a change, and after two separate deals to bring in new blood to the roster that has led to more losing, a coaching change feels inevitable. The only issue that I see with the timing is the proximity to the holidays, but whether it's after tonight's game or after the new year, change is nigh.

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