PHILADELPHIA—Columbus Blue Jackets head coach, Ken Hitchcock could barely
contain himself, despite coming up on the losing end of a 3-2 tilt against
the Philadelphia Flyers in Friday’s matinee game at the Wachovia Center.
Relieved from his role as head coach of the Flyers in October following the
team’s 1-6-1 start, Hitchcock was offered a job as a pro scout for the
Flyers, and was often spotted in various rinks around the American Hockey
So how did Hitchcock like his brief tenure as a scout?
“Scouting sucks…it just sucks.”
Hitchcock expanded on his exploits over the last few weeks, stating, “You go
to the wrong door, the (security) guy won’t let you into the rink because
you don’t have the right ID, you miss the train back (home), you try to find
the hotel, all that kind of screwy stuff.”
“Whatever those guys make, they ought to get a raise because scouting
sucks,” offered Hitchcock.
But what really had Hitchcock grinning like the Cheshire Cat was the
opportunity to get behind the bench with the Blue Jackets.
Unlike the under-performing, veteran squads he inherited in Dallas and
Philadelphia, Hitchcock now has a much-younger team that has failed to live
up to expectations. In fact, the dismal surroundings in Columbus have led
some NHL-observers to consider the Blue Jackets the equivalent of the NFL
Arizona Cardinals—the team can’t win, regardless of the talent brought in.
Despite players like winger Rick Nash, (whom Hitchcock inserted as a pivot
between David Vyborny and Fredrik Modin), Adam Foote, Sergei Fedorov, and
Anson Carter, the Blue Jackets have prevailed only in keeping the Flyers
from becoming the doormat of the NHL.
“This is a whole different atmosphere (in Columbus)…our (goal) is
respectability. The pressure on me in Columbus is to build a team, and we
have to take baby steps,” explained Hitchcock.
In five full seasons with the Dallas Stars, Hitchcock averaged 48 wins,
including a Stanley Cup in his third year. With the Flyers, Hitchcock
averaged 43 wins in his three seasons, before being fired eight games into
the 2006-07 season.
Hitchcock will be extremely challenged to match the early successes he
enjoyed with his Dallas and Philadelphia squads, in Columbus.
“If we can continue to take the steps like we did (against the Flyers), that
would be terrific,” said Hitchcock.
“You don’t look at one year, you look at a coaches’ body of work…I love
building teams—this is a terrific opportunity for all of us.”
There’s nowhere to go but up for the Blue Jackets, who equaled a
club-record, eight consecutive losses following Friday’s game.
“They’ve got a great spirit…when I looked at the tape (of previous games)
they were all over the map, but (the Blue Jackets) had spirit, and they
showed it again tonight.”
The Cheshire Cat appeared once more as Hitchcock, in his excitement to fawn
all over his new club, may have inadvertently provided some insight into the
foibles of his former Flyers’ squad.
“The players want to learn here, the enthusiasm in the locker room
A Freudian slip had Hitchcock catching himself before completely saying the
word, “refreshing,” and instead chose “incredible” to describe the Columbus
To top-off Hitchcock’s first, post-game conference with Columbus, one
Philadelphia media member had the ignominy of asking him if there was a spot
in his heart that was happy to see the Flyers end their own losing streak.
A puzzled Hitchcock retorted, “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”
Hitchcock hopes to end the Blue Jackets’ losing streak Saturday night when
the Minnesota Wild visit the Nationwide Arena, in his home debut as head
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