The reeling Columbus Blue Jackets have lost most of their games in the opening stanza of this season and many have been embarrassing losses. However, none has been quite as embarrassing as the 9-2 beatdown last night at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Apparently, the sky has fallen in Columbus as the Jackets are completely out of sorts.
Complete and Total Domination by Philadelphia
Do not let the two goals that the Jackets scored fool you into thinking this was some kind of a seesaw affair for awhile. Those were garbage-time goals that the Jackets scored after the Flyers had taken their foot off the pedal out of pity. Philadelphia led by a couple of goals almost at the onset of the game and went on to extend the lead to 5-0 after the end of the first period.
It became 8-0 after two periods, which included a shorthanded goal by Philadelphia with an overwhelming odd-man rush to further annihilate the Blue Jackets.
If this had been a heavyweight boxing matchup, the referee would have mercifully ended the bout early had the Jackets corner not already thrown in the proverbial towel.
Adding Insult To InjurySpeaking of fights and to add insult to injury, the Jackets couldn't even register a win in this category either as Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds pummeled the gutsy Derek Dorsett. It took a minor league call-up, Cody Bass, to show any kind of heart and valor, which really calls into question the dedication and commitment of the regulars.
James Wisniewski also got into the thick of things in the third period, but his was a very short fight as both men went down.
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier Make Columbus Pay For Trade Deal
If that isn't enough, even the much ballyhooed trade that brought Jeff Carter to Columbus in exchange for Jakub Voracek and a first-round draft pick looked like a deal from hell for the Jackets.
Jeff Carter is on the injured reserve and consequently did not play last night. On the other hand, Voracek had his best game so far in a Flyers uniform and so did Sean Couturier, the first-round draft pick selected by Philadelphia who may have been in a Jackets jersey had this trade not occurred. Voracek and Couturier combined for three goals and probably caused a tremendous amount of heartburn to Scott Howson, GM of the Blue Jackets. Voracek and Couturier certainly made Columbus pay for this trade deal.
Steve Mason Needs Change Of Scenery
There has been considerable speculation and rumors as to possible changes in Blue Jackets personnel ranging from players being benched, sent to minors or even traded.
Steve Mason, the Jackets' No. 1 goaltender, has taken the brunt of the team's shortcomings, although there is plenty of room to spread the blame. He will most likely get relegated to a backup role or traded if there is a suitor.
Mason could probably benefit from a change of scenery and blossom with another team. This could be mutually beneficial to both Mason and the Jackets.
Nonetheless, we can expect to see a veteran goaltender brought in to shore up the goaltending situation. Let's not forget that the Jackets' defensive corps has had its own share of gaffes that need addressing regardless of who the new goaltender may be.
Should Rick Nash Continue As Captain?There is no doubt about Rick Nash's ability as a player and his contributions in that regard. However, the same cannot be said about his additional role as team captain. His leadership style may be conducive to a club that is stable, but not one that is young and in desperate need of "in-your-face" leadership.
This would be a very difficult decision for the Jackets to make as Nash has unequivocally been the face of the franchise.
But therein lies the school of thought that this franchise has failed for so many years and Nash has been "left, front and center" of it all along. There are others who may even be willing to discuss trading him, although Nash would have to waive the no-trade clause in his contract.
I am not sure if such extreme action is needed, although the captaincy piece needs close scrutiny.
Coach Scott Arniel In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
As is the case with such epic failures in the sports world, the head coach of the team is held accountable. It appeared that Scott Arniel had a promising coaching career in the NHL after an impressive record in the minors as a head coach.
That could still happen for him, but not with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately, Arniel has had to take what he inherited and rebuilt it to work in his system. Needless to say, while his system has worked elsewhere, it has been nothing short of a disaster in Columbus. This is a case of a good coach in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would be improbable to imagine Arniel getting to complete this season with the Jackets in his current capacity.
GM Scott Howson's Gamble With Steve Mason Questionable
Scott Howson has been criticized for his ultra-conservative approach to rebuilding the Blue Jackets franchise after he took over the reigns as the GM from Doug MacLean. However, in the offseason, Howson raised eyebrows with his uncharacteristic trades to bring to the Jackets proven players such as Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, Vaclav Prospal and so forth.
These trades were met with much optimism and praise from the Jackets faithful. However, Howson may have shot himself in the foot by giving Steve Mason yet another chance to prove himself as the starting goaltender and opting to sign a minor leaguer in Mark Dekanich as the primary backup.
This curious gamble was cause for much acrimony amongst Jackets backers in the offseason and has only mushroomed since then.
As the results stand currently, Howson's gamble with Mason will be the final straw that breaks the camel's back. It is unfortunate as Howson has been a calculating and thoughtful GM. However, his due diligence with properly assessing the Blue Jackets' goaltending needs has to be called into question.
Ownership Faced With Difficult Decisions
The Blue Jackets ownership has done everything one could ask for in providing the resources and tools for the franchise to succeed. However, there is one more thing that needs to be done in a thoughtful and diligent manner. And, that is to create a bona fide blueprint for success and getting the right people to execute it.
The right people in this case consists of everyone associated in an employment capacity with the Blue Jackets—especially in the leadership positions. The ownership group has to be more frustrated than even the most ardent diehard fans of the Blue Jackets as its continuing efforts to right the ship seem to go nowhere.
It's time to double up on those efforts and make some difficult decisions.