November 06, 2011
If Scott Arniel keeps his job beyond Saturday night's 9-2 evisceration of his Columbus Blue Jackets by the Philadelphia Flyers, it's either an act of sadism or the ultimate acknowledgement that sacrificing the coach is a perfunctory act in a hopeless season.
Here's Arniel after the loss to the Flyers, via Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, when asked about his future:
"Nice question, alright. Nice question. I'm not in charge of that. I'm worried about what I have to do tomorrow with this hockey team."
…"We've hit a lot of bottoms this year. This was another big one."
But perhaps not the last one Arniel will hit, with the Jackets 2-11-1 and off until Thursday. Has he coached his last game for Columbus?
Goalie Steve Mason's(notes) going to be filleted for his performance against the Flyers, coming off a loss against the Leafs on Thursday for which he could be faulted. Mason gave up three goals in 13:09 of the first period, was pulled, came back and gave up four more in the epic 9-2 disaster in Philly.
But watch the goals he surrendered, especially in the first period:
As Arniel said: "You could probably look at his teammates tonight. I don't think they gave either one of those goaltenders a much of a chance."
More Arniel on the team's terrible first period:
"We were obviously embarrassed. Embarrassed very quickly in that first period. Gave up nine odd-man rushes within the first 14 minutes. That's not they way you play the game.
"The is the NHL. It doesn't matter what you do, whether it's systems or how you play it. It's responsibility. It's not like we were doing anything different. We don't give up that many chances in a game, let alone [in a period]. We disregarded what we were doing."
"Every mistake we made went in our net."
The Blue Jackets have now given up 20 goals in the first period in 14 games — worst in the NHL — scoring just eight. They've outshot their opponents in the first period, 138-122; but Mason's been a sieve in the first, and when you're dealing with a team whose psyche is that fragile you just can't have that from your goalie.
But it's not like he's getting any help. Captain Rick Nash(notes) has four goals in 14 games, the second straight season he's been arctic at the start of the season. The power play stinks. Jeff Carter(notes) and James Wisniewski(notes), brought in to turn this team into a playoff contender, have yet to play a game together as of Nov. 5.
"This is definitely embarrassing. Embarrassing for us as a team. It's tough times right now.
"Guys are embarrassed by the effort that we put up for the coach, the coaching staff and management."
After the Bruins and Islanders won on Saturday, the Blue Jackets are the only team in the NHL still in single digits for points in the standings with five. They are already nine points (!) out of the No. 8 seed.
Again, on Nov. 5.
It's not fair to Arniel that he hasn't had Carter and Wisniewski in his lineup, or Kristian Huselius(notes) for that matter. Or that Steve Mason — the goalie chosen by upper management, who plays without a veteran backup — has been a liability most nights and hardly ever a catalyst for success. Or that the team's made terrible decisions in the draft, and on its blue line. Or that on a night when Arniel and his coaches warn the players about the Flyers' abilities to get odd-man rushes, their defense decides to give the Flyers what amounts to a practice drill in the first period.
It's not fair that Arniel is going to have to pay the price for this dismal start with his job. But one imagines it's going to happen, so someone else can watch this collection of ineffective players Fail for Nail in a lost season.