This article may come as a surprise to a lot of you, but it's something that needs to be highlighted as the team takes the next 10 days off. Pascal Vincent may actually be the right coach for this team, right now.
Yes, it's true that the team is in last place in the Metropolitan Division. It's also true that they're in last place in the Eastern Conference, if you look at points percentage. Results certainly matter, so from the near-sighted perspective, it's ugly.
But, even though they aren't winning games like a lot of us hoped they would this year, it's hard to argue that we're seeing improvement almost across the board with their young players. In the midst of a rebuild, that's exactly what we should be hoping to see.
The best example right now might be Cole Sillinger. The 12th overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft looked absolutely shell-shocked last season. Part of that might have been the dreaded "sophomore slump". Or, perhaps it was the lingering effects of a preseason concussion.
He scored just 3 goals and 11 points in 64 games last season, while carrying a -23 rating. This was all before an end of the year stint in the AHL; where he continued to struggle with just 6 points in 11 games.
This season started out in much the same fashion for Cole. Through the first 19 games of the season, Cole had just 5 assists, with a -6 rating. But in 26 games since scoring his first goal, he has 8 goals and 14 points - and has brought his season total up to a +1 rating.
He's doing all of this while playing top-six minutes for the first time in his career. Aside from the stats, he's looked like a far more confident, steady two-way version of himself. It really seems like the return of the budding gritty, two-way force that we saw in 2021-22.
It's not just Sillinger that we're seeing marked improvement from. He's just the best example. Another good one is Yegor Chinakhov. And, several other players have started improving in their all-around play throughout the season. In that regard, it does seem like this team is taking steps in the right direction.
Now it feels like the next step is weeding out some of the pieces who have been part of the losing culture here for the last few years. This will give these improving young players greater roles. At that point, we can really judge Vincent's coaching on an overall scale. From an "X and O" perspective, maybe there's something left to be desired.
But, even though I think this franchise absolutely has to move on from its management staff, it seems like the coaching staff (Vincent in particular) deserves a chance to run it back with a full offseason to prepare properly. Maybe weeding out some of that dead weight on the roster; along with an overhaul to the defensive zone structure (new assistant coach here, maybe?), could make all the difference in the world.
Let's not forget that Jared Bednar's first season behind the Colorado Avalanche bench resulted in just 22 wins and 48 points. The situation is strikingly similar: Bednar was named head coach late in the summer after some drama in the organization. His second season saw the Avalanche nearly double their points total, earning them a playoff berth.
Certainly, all of the praise (or criticism) doesn't fall completely on the head coach. But, Vincent was dealt an unfair hand by the Blue Jacket organization, and he seems to be making the most of it and helping this team develop where it really matters. I'm interested to see how the rest of this season plays out, especially with the young talent here.