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February 14, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards directs his team during the game against the St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

What If...You Could Be Coach For The Day!

We all tap into our imagination from time to time, just as if we were back to being five years old, and playing in the backyard. Only now when we use our imagination, we have to snap back to an unfortunate reality. Like when you think, wouldn’t it be awesome to be coach for just one day…and you all of a sudden get lost in line changes, and different tactics, and then…you realize you’re not really the coach of the Blue Jackets, and you probably never will be. For the sake of this post though, I am going to be the coach of the Blue Jackets for just one game.

Assuming that the roster will be the same on opening night as it is today, August the 7th, I will discuss the lines I would send out on the ice and how I would mix it up if needed. Here is what the depth chart looks like at this moment…

Centers: Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen, and Derek MacKenzie

Left Wingers: Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, R.J. Umberger, and Matt Calvert

Right Wingers: Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton, Mark Letestu, Blake Comeau, and Jared Boll

Defenseman: Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Nikitin, Tim Erixon, James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Dalton Prout, and Ryan Murray

Here we go…….

Fast Forward to October 4th, 2013. Its opening night at Nationwide Arena. The fans, coaches, players, and even front office management have goosebumps running down their arms, and are filled with excitement for the beginning of the 2013-2014 NHL season. It is just before warm-ups when I call the team together to announce who my starting six are.

Apr 9, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) celebrates his shutout at the end of the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena. Columbus defeated San Jose 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Taking the opening face-off, Dubi, to his left, Foligno, and on the right side, Gaborik. First defensive pair, JJ and Erixon. Starting in goal, Vezina Bob (yeah, I gave him a new nickname).

I then proceed to write down the rest of the lines up on the white board, yelling out each players name and position as I rattle them off.

Second line, Artie at center, Umbi to his left, Comeau on the right side. Prout and Tyutin on the blue line as the second d-pairing.

Third line, Jenner in the middle, Atkinson on the left side, Johansen on the right side. Nikitin and Wiz are the final d-pairing.

Fourth line, Mackenzie centering, Calvert to the left, and Letestu on the right.

I want high energy from the start, Dubi, I am looking for you to set the pace early. Forecheck, forecheck, forecheck. I want to take it to Calgary right from the first whistle to the final horn.

Mar 29, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger (18) and Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) collide during the second period at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Columbus Blue Jackets won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Back to reality…

How did I do? Before you lay into me and tell me how bad of a coach I make, let me do some explaining…

March 10, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger (18) during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately Horton won’t be available until later into the season, so I decided to give Jenner a shot on the third line with some of the other talented youth on the roster. Also, I think Umberger needs a bit of rejuvenation, and being on the second line with Anismiov and Comeau could do the trick.

If those lines weren’t working well chemistry wise, I would look to really shake things up. Maybe even try Artem on a wing, with Jenner as center and Gaborik on the other wing. With a second line of Dubi, Foligno, and Comeau. I would do the math and tell you how many different line combinations there could be, but this isn’t math class, so I will spare you.

Defensive pairings were decided by experience. Veteran players with a younger less experienced player. I think JJ and Erixon would be an awesome defensive pairing, same with Tyutin and Prout. Opposite thinking, Wiz and Nikitin could benefit from each others experience. One change I would make would be installing Murray into my line-up but I couldn’t decide who would sit out. Which could be decided after a few games and reviewing how each player is performing.

Alright, now you can let me know what a bad coach I would make. Don’t forget to back it up though and tell me the lines you would choose!

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