Transition years can be a bear to go through. They can bring about a lot of hope, but they’re almost meant to be difficult by nature. One such team looking at a change of pace transitioning from one style of play to another are the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Aaron Portzline of Puck Rakers took a look at the Blue Jackets roster and the anxiety that could run rampant through Ohio this season as the team switches from Ken Hitchcock’s bland, boring style of hockey to what new head coach Scott Arniel hopes to do to make things a bit more exciting.
Arniel plans to play a puck-possession, high-tempo style that most players prefer, a style that is in stark contrast to the retreat-and-react style drummed home the previous three-plus seasons in Columbus. But there are no guarantees this will work, especially with regard to the Blue Jackets’ defensemen.
The message has been sent (or will be soon) to Blue Jackets’ blue-liners that Arniel wants them to be aggressive getting the puck up ice, whether that means carrying the puck or passing it. He also wants to see the Blue Jackets’ defensemen join the rush when the opportunity is there. The new message: taking risks will be tolerated.
This looks good on paper, and any hockey fan with a soul will cheer the advent of exciting, offensive-minded hockey in Nationwide Arena. Let’s face it: not only were the wins in short supply last season, but some of the wins were downright snoozy.
But this change may not be easily executed with the same players. It could very well require more than a mental shift. You can scream at your Hummer all day, but it’s going to have a hard time keeping up on the Autobahn.
There’s a lot to like in Columbus. Obviously Rick Nash is the focus of everything there and with good reason, but young players like Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and Nikita Filatov could provide the spark needed to jump-start things in Columbus. That said, any high expectations have to be tempered with reality.
The defense will be suspect and flipping the switch from the careful, plodding style Hitchcock employed to what Arniel hopes to do takes time. Blue Jackets fans might not like this comparison, but if you want to see what a team looks like when going through a whirlwind change of pace, looking at last year’s Minnesota Wild is a good place to go.
The Wild changed from Jacques Lemaire’s traditional defense-first brand of hockey to Todd Richards more aggressive style. The Wild were inconsistent last year, but started to find their way around the ice eventually after a couple of months. While the Wild do have some talent, given the youthful build up of players they’ve got in Columbus, change and improvement will take time. After all, it’s not as if success can’t come out of nowhere, last year’s Colorado Avalanche are a good example of that. Still, patience will be required in Columbus but there is hope.