Not same old Sens (cont.)
Posted: Friday April 20, 2007 1:16PM; Updated: Friday April 20, 2007 2:44PM
The Blue Jackets' firing of Doug MacLean on Thursday was inevitable and overdue. In six seasons, the Jackets have a combined record of 172-258-62 and haven't come remotely close to making the playoffs. Meanwhile, other recent expansion teams have been making significant progress:
The Ducks (nee Mighty Ducks) reached the playoffs in their fourth season as did the Lightning. The Panthers, coached by MacLean, appeared in the Stanley Cup Final in only their third season, the same amount of time it took the Sharks and Wild to become a playoff teams. The Predators needed six seasons, but two years later, they were fighting for the Presidents' Trophy. The Thrashers, in their seventh season, won the Southeast Division and reached the playoffs for the first time this spring.
At nine games under .500, the Jackets finished 24th overall this season, even though they played better once Ken Hitchcock stepped in as coach during the season. MacLean had two years remaining on his contract, but it was time for a change now, and the reasons were many.
The acquisition of Sergei Fedorov and his huge contract was a mistake. Fedorov was a Stanley Cup-winner and league MVP in Detroit, but at 37, he plays as though he doesn't care anymore. He has scored just 30 goals in 155 games during his two seasons in Columbus. He will make over $6 million next season and to get him, MacLean shipped capable right wing Tyler Wright and defenseman Francois Beauchemin, an unsung hero of the Anaheim defense who is overshadowed by Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.
Some of MacLeans signings, such as free agent defensemen Adam Foote, Scott Lachance, Bryan Berard and Luke Richardson never panned out. Foote will make $4.6 million next season, but at 35, the two-time Cup-winner in Colorado looks as though the post-lockout game has passed him by.
The Blue Jackets have no veteran influence to tutor and guide Rick Nash. At 22, the 6'4" left wing seems to have regressed, which shouldn't happen to someone with his skill level and upside. Nash scored 41 goals in 2003-04 and 31 in 54 games in 2005-06. But he slipped to 27 in 75 games this season and isn't finishing the way he did as a rookie.
The same could be said for Nikolai Zherdev, another 22-year-old with a ton of talent -- and better hands than Nash. Zherdev scored 10 goals and was --19 this season. He could develop into an All-Star in the right environment. For now, that environment needs to change. MacLean's dismissal was a necessary start.