With the dust having settled on yesterday's firing of coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets get back on the ice hosting the Dallas Stars with assistant Coach Claude Noel assuming the interim coaching reins for the balance of the season. It's the dawning of the Claude Noel era tonight and talking to him this morning, he is excited but a bit nervous and I think that's a good thing. He told me he hasn't had much sleep between meetings, media requests and phone calls but he will be ready for tonight's debut.
My thoughts on the Hitch Era are that he brought structure, stability and frankly, the high expectations for this season ultimately led to his dismissal yesterday. I probably have known Hitch longer than anyone in the entire organization. We both were breaking into our respective professions - he as a young coach and me as a young broadcaster with CBC Radio and TV in Edmonton. Yes, he is demanding and at times relentless, but his focus and goal was and is always to make his players better whether it was back in Edmonton in minor hockey... back in the Western Canadian Junior League... the minor pros or any of his three NHL stops. He only knows one way and if you ask any of his former players today they will tell you, he was demanding but he always had their interests and the teams best interests at heart, even if it was difficult to accept. In all my years in this GREAT game, that is the NHL... no one worked harder on preparing his team to play! And I have had the good fortune of working alongside some of the best coaches in NHL history with the likes of Scotty Bowman, Mike Kennan, Lindy Ruff and Brian Murray. At the end of the day, this is a results business... and simply put... the Jackets have underachieved and ultimately that was Hitch's responsibility as the team's head coach.
That said, we now look ahead and tonight, Noel will be calling the shots. As for today's morning skate, it was interesting to note that there were NO line rushes. Noel later told us he had not yet decided on the lines for tonight's game, but I can tell you judging by today's skate Milan Jurcina will be in the lineup tonight with Mathieu Roy the healthy scratch on the blueline, while Andrew Murray sits out up front. Steve Mason will start in goal for the CBJ.
Game time is 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio preceded by Blue Jackets Live at 6:30 p.m.
*Throughout the season, AAA will bring you the Broadcaster's Blogs - "Bobby Mac", "Davidge Dishes" and "Rimer Ramblings." The Columbus Blue Jackets radio and television analysts will try to keep you updated on all the season action through their blogs, especially when the Blue Jackets are on the road.