The Columbus Blue Jackets have just 30 games left in their season.
Given how badly the first 52 have gone — the last-place BJs have just 14 wins and are 13 points back of 29th-place Edmonton — it’s fair to think some players might be, how should we put this, ready to play out the string.
But if that’s the plan, they best check themselves with interim head coach Todd Richards, who has come up with a one-word objective for the remainder of the season.
“For me, it’s pride,” Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s pride — it’s how we play the game. That’s what I’m hoping to establish with these guys and instill in some of them, and it’s a big word. It’s real important to the game of hockey.
“I want our guys to be able to say, when the night is over and they’re untying their skates in the dressing room, that they left everything out on the ice. No matter what the scoreboard says, that’s where I want us to be as a team, night in and night out.”
This isn’t the first time an interim Blue Jackets coach has gone the “one word to rule them all” route. After Ken Hitchcock was fired late in the 2009-10 season, replacement bench boss Claude Noel kept saying the team had to play with “joy” — and the BJs proceeded to joy it up by winning 10 of 24 games under his joyful watch.
While Richards’ pride idea might come off as hokey or tardy — shouldn’t the Jackets have played with pride right from the get-go? — he acknowledges the situation at hand calls for some different motivational techniques.
“I don’t think we’re mathematically eliminated, but we’re at a stage where everybody feels that way,” Richards said. “We’re not a team that can use the standings or a playoff race for motivation, so it’s not an easy thing.”
“All I’m asking of these guys is to give me the best of what they’ve got the rest of the way. If you can put your head on the pillow and have peace of mind knowing you did the best work you could do … to me, that’s when you sleep well.”