COLUMBUS OH - DECEMBER 23: Head Coach Scott Arniel of the Columbus Blue Jackets looks away from the action while the Vancouver Canucks dominate the game on December 23 2010 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Scott Arniel is still the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday morning. How is that possible?
The biggest story in the NHL this past weekend might not have been the firing of Davis Payne as coach of the St. Louis Blues, but instead the fact that the team hired Ken Hitchcock, who seemed like the obvious choice to be tapped once again in Columbus.
Hey, after all, the Blue Jacket were still paying the guy. Might as well put him behind the bench, right?
But Hitch won't be back as the head coach of the Blue Jackets, and while St. Louis fans debate over whether or not he's the right man for the job, Scott Arniel and Scott Howson still have offices at Nationwide Arena. It's pretty incomprehensible, actually. After all, there's no better time to fire a head coach or a general manager than right now in Columbus.
Think about it: Not only are the Blue Jackets in dead last in the NHL with just two wins on the year, and not only are they coming off of a horrible 9-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday -- the kind of game that usually serves as the impetus for such firings -- but they also have five days between that game and their next game on Thursday against Chicago.
If there's any time to make an in-season turnover, it's when you have a week without games to institute that change.
Here they are, though. It's Monday morning, there's no change. It looks as though they're sticking with their guns, and that's just absolutely unbelievable.
I had a chance to witness that game live and in person on Saturday night, and there's no doubt that it was an important game for the Blue Jackets. They came in with the weight of the world on their shoulders, knowing that with any loss, there could be major changes coming. They were in Philadelphia, home of Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier, the products of their blockbuster trade with the Flyers back in June that sent the now-injured Jeff Carter to Columbus.
This was a big game for the Jackets. They had a lot to prove, and even though they continued on again without a full roster, the Blue Jackets simply failed to show up. This wasn't Philadelphia imposing their will against an inferior opponent. Not even a little bit. It was that inferior opponent failing to put up any sort of fight.
Let's use the first goal of the game, scored by James van Riemsdyk of the Flyers, as Exhibit A.
van Riemsdyk literally has all the room in the world to score that goal. There's not a defending player within 10 feet of him. Call it a defensive breakdown if you want, but that's much more than your typical defensive breakdown.
Exhibit B: Max Talbot isn't much of a goal-scorer -- don't let his hot start confuse you -- nor is he much of a speedster. Allowing Talbot to find his way behind the defense here is just hard to fathom.
Exhibit C: Claude Giroux has 19 points in 14 games this season. You're gonna give him this much room?
I don't think we need to pile on anymore. The fact is simple: the Blue Jackets simply didn't show up in this game at all, and that's not something that falls on the general manager.
Is he at fault for putting together the roster? Without a doubt, he certainly is. But there is validity to the idea that the roster hasn't played a game together at full capacity just yet. After all, the two prized offseason acquisitions -- Carter and James Wisniewski -- have yet to play in the lineup together yet. It's impossible to judge the general manager Howson without seeing his full product give it a go.
And besides, it's not on Howson to make sure that team shows up to play on the ice. That's the sort of responsibility that falls on the players themselves and the coaching staff, and as the old cliche goes, you can't fire the entire damn team (even though Howson said would happen in this situation).
When a team in such a desperate situation fails to show up for what's certainly a larger game than usual, anybody who fails to blame the coach and his staff must have some sort of ulterior motive. There's no other way to explain why Scott Arniel still has a job this Monday morning.
Morning Skate is a daily NHL column. It runs Monday through Friday. Check the archives.
For more on Columbus and their options in the wake of Saturday's horrible loss and their horrific start, check out this piece from Blue Jackets blog The Cannon.