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
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.
Columbus Blue Jackets
|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|
(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 |
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)
STL - 11.1% (30th)
CBJ - 13.0% (27th)
STL - 81.3% (19th)
CBJ - 76.0% (28th)
- 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.