Blue Jackets Turn Down the Stars

During the past couple of days, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been through a lot of turmoil and shock on and off the ice. On Tuesday, the team saw a 1-0 turn into a 5-1 embarrassment to the Colorado Avalanche and on Wednesday, made a coaching change by firing Ken Hitchcock.

Hitchcock’s firing was a shock to most of the players but on Thursday night against the Dallas Stars, the Blue Jackets were able to come through with a victory for interim head coach Claude Noel’s first NHL win.

Despite everything that had gone in in the past couple of days, everything seemed to go right for the Blue Jackets on Thursday evening. Starting goaltender Steve Mason, who was recently criticized by members of the Columbus media for having a slump in his sophomore season, managed to get 22 saves on the night and played solid.

In addition to great defense by Mason, the Blue Jackets got off to an early lead and managed to keep it. Anton Stralman put the Blue Jackets on the board first with five minutes left in the first period. RJ Umberger would add an empty net goal towards the end of the third period and despite giving up a goal to Stars forward Brad Richards right after that, the Blue Jackets managed to preserve the lead and win the game. That was a feat that has not happened much this season but the victory could not have come at a better time.

The Blue Jackets have been through a lot emotionally within the past couple of days and this game could be what the players needed to relax a bit. Many of the players publicly praised Hitchcock despite rumors of their former coach being too demanding on the rookies and many felt they should share the blame for the rough season. Whether or not Hitchcock was too demanding or his style wasn’t working, the Blue Jackets were relaxed tonight and were able to get a much needed win.

Claude Noel still has work to do with this hockey club but has a great opportunity in front of him. If he does well, he could follow in the footsteps of Joe Sacco in Colorado and Dan Bylesma in Pittsburgh, who were both promoted from within the organization and have gone on to become good coaches in the NHL. Noel could easily earn his chance to have the interim title removed from his job description and could be what the Blue Jackets need to succeed. Whether or not the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs is still in question but if the team plays well after the Olympic Break, Noel could get his shot to be the full time leader of this hockey club.

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~ by jeffrsabo on February 5, 2010.

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