Now what, Blue Jackets?
By now you know Scott Arniel has been fired and Todd Richards is taking over as interim head coach.
I think it was long overdue, but as Mike suggested yesterday, it's not all on Arniel. At any rate, Richards, who was let go as the Minnesota Wild head coach last season, will take over the 11-25-5 Jackets. I previously took a brief look at a few potential coaching candidates in Bob Hartley, Guy Carbonneau, and Marc Crawford.
Of course, Richards is going to do everything he can to make a case that he deserves the head coaching job next year and not someone else. We've seen this before - the Blue Jackets season all but over by the end of January, then sometime after the All-Star break they start playing well and beating teams they shouldn't. Ultimately, this results in the team playing just well enough to not draft one of the elite players in the draft. Even the year they drafted Rick Nash, they had to trade for the pick.
Outside of that year and the draft following the playoff season, the Jackets have drafted 4th overall three times, 6th overall three times, 7th overall once, and 8th overall twice. I'll leave the prospect analysis to Mike, but this year, the consensus No. 1 pick is Nail Yakupov. Outside of the top 3, the talent takes a bit of a drop off.
You never want to watch a team that loses on purpose, but some would argue that maybe that's what they've been doing for awhile now. This is largely the same group of players that seemed to quit on Ken Hitchcock half a season after making the playoffs.
I think the only right answer is to get the young talent on this team valuable ice time and whatever happens, happens. Give Ryan Johansen a shot on the top line and increased duties to John Moore. As soon as Mark Dekanich is healthy, let's see if he's an NHL goaltender. Now is his chance to make his case for being kept around after this season.
I'd like to see more of Tomas Kubalik, Matt Calvert, and Cam Atkinson. Calvert shined in the second half of last season, so maybe now is the perfect chance to see if he can continue that kind of play. And for goodness sake, let's see if Derick Brassard can play, because despite the mishandling by Arniel, I'm starting to think he still has something in him.
The team needs to know where they stand with every single player in the organization, and now is the time to figure it out. If they shouldn't be here or they're not good enough, get rid of them. If they have promise, see if they can elevate their game and take on an increased role.
But please, don't just sit around and let Sammy Pahlsson, Derek MacKenzie, or Jared Boll take minutes that would be better served with the future of this organization.