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P stands for "Pathetic". K stands for "Killing myself".

Saturday, February 03, 2007
Those of you who read my blog know I am actually pretty good at avoiding calling for the heads of both players and coaches. Yeah, I'll get on their case, and I will most definitely rip in to them if they appear to be failing harder than my grades in high school (ooh! Self-deprecation ... painful), but I've only ever asked for Doug MacLean's head on a platter once, and that was just around the time that Gerard Gallant was fired.

Around the time that Ken Hitchcock was finally brought in as the new head coach, there was some idle, passing comments about how MacLean wished for the two assistant coaches -- Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy -- to stay on, and for Hitchcock to not actively shop around for a new coaching staff. It was a fair enough request by MacLean, for a few reasons ranging from trying to keep a little team stability, to the fact that back around that time in November, the penalty kill was still puttering along, and the power play was at the very least trying, albeit ineptly.

Like I touched on a few posts back, Agnew reportedly was brought up to handle the power play after a good stint as head coach in Syracuse, while Murphy -- who handles defensive matters and the penalty kill -- goes back with MacLean during his days as a defenseman with the Florida Panthers during their mid-90s Stanley Cup Finals run. MacLean, as has also been mentioned by the media and other bloggers, has been known to keep his buddies a little on the close side, as was the case with keeping "Turk" (Gallant) around, and then lobbying a bit hard for Agnew to become the new head coach despite a winless interim coach stint which saw some pretty humiliating defeats.

But I'm getting sidetracked. My point is that Murphy was apparently kept on as a favor to MacLean.

Now, I want you folks to take a look at the penalty kill results for the past five games, showing just how successful the teams were that played against the Blue Jackets when they had the man advantage.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Let's put this further in to perspective, by pointing out each team's individual power play rank, much like I did a couple days ago:

Buffalo - 20th
Minnesota - 22nd
Vancouver - 11th
Edmonton - 26th
Calgary - 24th

With the exception of Vancouver, these teams are bad on the power play. And in the case of Edmonton and Calgary, they're not only bad, but just plain pathetic. So pathetic, that they may as well be given an extra skater without having to sacrifice the goalie, so that they can be 6-on-4 during power play opportunities.

These are, for the most part, teams that you should not be allowing multiple goals against during the penalty kill. Leading up to last night, the floundering PK could easily be overlooked due to the fact that even though two goals were let in against Edmonton, they still only had three chances in all (you could assume it was an off-night due to the short layover between games). And prior to that, the CBJ had a four game winning streak going on, concealing this weak link.

But what happened in Calgary was, both literally and figuratively speaking, the shoe falling off of the other foot. On 10 different attempts on the power play, the Flames managed to slaughter the Jackets, succeeding on four of those.

It has gotten to the point where you can actually tell when the opposing team is going to score on the power play against the Jackets a whole few seconds before they do. You can see that players -- and this is pretty much every one on the PK, not just a specific few -- are not setting themselves up in the right spots, and the box scheme of four players in front of the goalie is looking like a slipshod piece of work. Players are not efficiently pressuring the point men, who have all the time in the world to play catch with the puck not just with themselves, but with cherry pickers such as Ryan Smyth and Daniel Briere, which was painfully obvious during the games against the Oilers and the Sabres.

The Jackets are playing soft on the power play, just hoping that the presence of a warm body in front of the shooting lane is going to somehow stop opposing players from firing howitzers that either go in, or rebound to a player gliding around casually without anyone noticing them.

This is no longer just an issue of bad luck, or a lackadaisical play. The players are getting angry, and looking extremely frustrated with what they're doing ... and I think the biggest part of why that is, comes from Gord Murphy.

Yes, I'm calling Murphy out over the players. Why? Because it is his role as defensive coach to handle the penalty kill, and what the players should do during it. If the players are told to play in a specific manner, then they are obligated to follow his penalty killing blueprints. And to me, the "blueprints" I have seen on the ice the past five games allow for very little efficient pressure on the opposing team. The box format can be good, but not if the players literally just stand there and not do anything but stand there.

It was a nice gesture for Hitchcock to not laugh at GMDM and tell him to wave good-bye to his former Florida player, but it's time to look for a new defensive coach. Someone who has an inkling of an idea about how the PK works, and also how to break out of your own zone when being pressured.

Then again, it might be too late now, and the team might be stuck with what they have in the coaching department until the off season.

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About Me

Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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