Blue Jackets coach calls out his team

Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards implied he'll shake up the roster when injured players return.

It was the media scrum following the Blue Jackets overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the team's third straight loss in OT. Head coach Todd Richards was upset about yet another last-minute goal given up by his team, this one coming with just a handful of seconds left in the first period and giving the Canadiens life after Columbus had built a 2-0 lead.

"Poor decision at the end of the first," he said. "It's just managing the game. You know, it's a 2-0 game and we've got the puck, and we're trying to make one more play with 15 seconds to go in the period. We just shovel a bouncing puck back to our defenseman. It's a tough play for Toots ( Fedor Tyutin), puck bouncing…just a bad decision."

That wasn't all that had Richards upset. He went on to lament an unnecessary, offensive-zone penalty (called on Cam Atkinson) in the second period of the game, a penalty that led to the game-tying power play goal by Montreal's Lars Eller. That play, he noted, was emblematic of his team's confounding yet very consistent struggles in the second periods of games this season.

"And the penalty in the second…when they got their second goal," he explained, "it's a bad penalty, going in and putting your arm around him, every referee is going to make that call. Just bad decisions.

"In the first period we can execute and do the right things, have some success," he continued. "And then we just abandon it. Whether the other team steps up, whatever it is. But poor decisions, poor choices. The big question's going to come when we start getting guys back.

"Right now as a coach, I don't have very many bullets that I can use, as far as the accountability factor for players. Bad puck decisions, bad penalties. Right now, we're at our (roster) numbers; there's not a lot (I can do). But when we get Boone (Jenner) back, get Matt Calvert back, get Nathan Horton back – he's not too far away – that's three guys."

So, essentially, an overtly frustrated NHL head coach was telling us some guys on the roster will be sitting in the press box once his injured players return. That, friends, isn't your average coach speak.

Then, it got even more intriguing. Richards actually stopped the next questioner in his tracks to say this:

"Hold onto your question, just one thing to add to that, too. It's not Derek MacKenzie, or Blake Comeau, or Mark Letestu, the way they're playing right now. It's not Jared Boll. That's our best line. When you look back at last year and some of the success of our fourth line, to me that's the line that's trying to make a difference right now. Seems like every time they got out on the ice, not necessarily created chances, but they created energy for us, some positive energy."

So we know at least some of the players that are playing up to the head coach's expectations. We don't know for sure the ones he's unhappy with because, unfortunately, no one at the press conference asked, and he didn't offer. But it wouldn't be all that difficult for fans to connect some of the roster dots and get at the root of the disconnect that has the head coach so befuddled and so exasperated.

"Again, as a coach, this is the struggle that we have as coaches trying to find the solution," Richards said. "Where's the disconnect? What's going on with our group that we can play the game, and we can't play the game, then we can play the game again?"

With a five-game road trip on the horizon, answers to those questions are critical. This team needs to reconnect. Now.

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