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As Blue Jackets continue to melt down, could Hitchcock’s job be slipping away?

Go West, young men.

That is the edict from the NHL scheduling office to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in the midst of a losing streak that has seen them drop 13 of 14 games.

The stretch continued Tuesday night in a 7-3 loss to Vancouver in the first leg of their three-game road trip.

Under normal circumstances, an extended road trip through western Canada, which features games against two teams with top 12 records in the NHL, would be cause for concern.

But these are far from normal circumstances.

After a hot start in which they won five of six to start the season, the  Blue Jackets are having one of their worst campaigns in franchise history.

Perhaps hitting the road, getting away from Columbus and having some time to reflect on the plane will be just what these struggling Jackets need to right the ship.

Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock might not have time for reflection, however.

In a league in which coaches are hired and fired at a dizzying pace, Hitchcock might not survive to see the team return home to Columbus.

Despite votes of confidence from general manager Scott Howson and team president Mike Priest, the vultures are already beginning to circle the coach who not so very long ago was the toast of the town, leading the Blue Jackets to their first-ever postseason appearance last season.

But anyone who saw the dismantling of that playoff team by the Detroit Red Wings in a first-round sweep knows that the Jackets were not necessarily a team on the verge.

Rather, the hasty exit was proof positive that this is a team with a lot of work still to do if it is to challenge for the playoffs in seasons to come.

“Playoffs?!”

If you listen closely enough, you can almost hear former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora’s high-pitched, incredulous exclamation in linking this Blue Jackets team to the playoffs in any fashion.

This Columbus team would probably settle for simply not embarrassing themselves for the remainder of the season.

The reasons for the slide are many and varied. Currently, Hitchcock is attempting to explain it away as a long term plan to get his younger players more ice time. This seems to be in contrast with his early season plan, which allotted little playing time for younger players such as Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek and the now departed Nikita Filatov.

In a much publicized dispute, Filatov returned to his native Russia due to his lack of minutes. He was a healthy scratch five times in the first month of the season. 

Hitchcock sounds as though he knows his time in Columbus could be drawing to a close.

“We’ve got a plan and we’re willing to stick with it,” Hitchcock said of his young talent. “And if it costs me my job, it costs me my job. But there is a plan.”

Unless that plan includes some victories soon, it may not be one he will be around to see come to fruition.

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