Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. And Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Avalanche notwithstanding,
Just 10 games into a new season ripe with expectations, the Blue Jackets coach has come to grips with the obvious: he has a big hole in the middle of his lineup.
Yanking the superstar out of his comfort zone was as much a ploy to get Nash more involved in the flow as an effort to address the center issue. Either way, it didn't work. Frustratingly inconsistent over the past four games, the captain looked sluggish and uncomfortable rather than motivated, doing little to answer the challenge before being shuttled back to the wing after a handful of shifts.
With nothing being generated by the top line, Columbus was primed for a fourth straight loss. Fortunately, they caught a break when the Avalanche decided to start
Here's a better indication of the action: Outshot 32-17 -- including 14-3 in the third -- this was a game the Jackets likely would have lost had they faced an NHL goalie for 60 minutes.
Afterwards, Hitchcock defended his troops by suggesting their 4-6 start isn't indicative of their play. That's nice, but last check revealed that it's still a team's record that decides whether it makes the playoffs. Those two points count, and that's huge for a team that has trouble picking them up. But the Jackets have to address the elephant in the room before they start patting themselves on the back for their effort. Short of a bold change, they aren't good enough to avoid a ninth straight year without a postseason chair when the music stops.
The Jackets surely need to find someone to fill that No. 1 role, fast. Thing is, top six forwards, especially centers, can be fairly costly on the rare occasions they're made available. It takes a certain opportunism to pull the trigger when the chance arises. That's why it has to be particularly galling for the Jackets' long-suffering fan base to know that GM
On draft day, the Phoenix Coyotes remedied their own long-standing need for a legitimate first-line center by sending defenders
The rebuilding Coyotes are facing struggles of their own, but Jokinen has lived up to his paper, averaging a point per game and easing the transition of future stars
Hitchcock has shot down the suggestion in the past, saying he wants to keep the 21-year-old away from the heavier load and tighter checking that would come with the job. In an ideal situation -- say, like the one crafted by
With a goal and an assist against the Avs, the NHL's top rookie scorer looked up to the task last night. Dynamic, creative and enthusiastic -- even when matched up against
After spending time together in the preseason, it's obvious the trio has some chemistry. That's no guarantee of success now, of course, and the increased pressure might mess with the confidence the kid has quickly developed on the second line. But the Jackets are running out of time. The dwindling fan base is tired of empty promises, and another year of just-you-wait-and-see won't do it.
The Jackets already missed one chance to be bold. They can't afford to pass on another.