November 07, 2011
Fun fact: I heard about Ken Hitchcock being hired by the St. Louis Blues while watching a between periods debate on Sportsnet about how he'll turn the Columbus Blue Jackets around when he replaces Scott Arniel.
Yeah … about that.
The speculation that the former Jackets coach would reclaim the bench in Columbus was born out of a report in the Columbus Dispatch on Oct. 30 that claimed team president Mike Priest had contacted him to replace Arniel for the then 1-9-1 Jackets. It made sense: He was under contract as a consultant for another year, so it was all very much Jacques Lemaire-ian: Old coach cracks skulls, turns around terrible team.
Plus, the Jackets' season is a gruesome horror show, and who better understands that kind of thing than a Hitchcock. (Insert "Psycho" theme here.)
But when asked about a return to Columbus in his introductory press conference, Hitchcock said:
"There was zero discussion for me to go back to Columbus."
Can you blame him?
It's not like Hitchcock wasn't getting feelers from teams in a better position than Columbus, with a general manager that hadn't already fired him once. From Hitch, after his presser on Monday:
"I've always wanted to get back into coaching. I interviewed four times during the summer, with four different teams in the National Hockey League. So I was starting to gear up. But as this season started, I started to get a little bit anxious in October, because I was ready. I didn't realize how ready I was during the summer. I wasn't energized. Starting in October, I was really energized.
"I think what got me going was going down and spending time with those American Hockey League coaches, and how excited they were. It really got me going, got me thinking again. "
(Four teams, eh? Speculation station: The Devils, Panthers, Stars and Wild. What say you?)
So Hitchcock wasn't an option for the Blues, according to Hitchcock. Which means Doug Armstrong's attempt to hire him wasn't based on some ticking clock in Columbus.
Here's Armstrong, who believes in the players in that room but not so much Davis Payne, apparently:
So what do the Blue Jackets do now? Via Aaron Portzline, there are no promises that Arniel will still be the coach on Thursday:
Arniel said he has neither sought nor received assurances that he'll be behind the bench on Thursday when the Blue Jackets host Chicago. "No, I haven't gone down that road," Arniel said. "It's like I've said: Control what you can control. If somebody wants to make a decision, then so be it.
"Really, I don't give a rat's (expletive). I mean, I care about my job. I don't care whatever's going on outside. I just care about my job as the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. I have to find answers. I'm trying to find them the best way I can.
"It started today. We'll move on to tomorrow. I'll keep showing up here until somebody tells me I'm not supposed to."
That fact that the Blue Jackets allowed Hitchcock to make a deal with the Blues tells you that he wasn't in line to replace Arniel. So who is?
Maybe management's not fibbing when they say they want to see this team as full capacity before passing judgement.
FYI: The Blues and Blue Jackets faceoff next on Nov. 27. Mark your calendars. You know the Jackets have.