So how did Hitchcock go from playoffs to rumor mill grist? Losing does such things. What this season hasn't done is invalidate the team's run last year. Ken didn't slip into senility in the off-season. Coaching is overrated in most sports, and hockey is no exception. Players carry the day and coaches sometimes make a difference over the long haul.
The biggest difference year-to-year from 2009-2010? Mason. It's as simple as that. To put that pressure on a young person is tough, but the conclusion is inescapable. The Jackets rode his cape into the playoffs and they occupy the bottom now based on the absence of magic. Firing Hitchcock or blaming Mason as the sole source is as easy as it is unfair. Howson has to face the fact that the dearth of scoring is on him, not Hitch. To expect Mason to work under the pressure of shutout or loss is untenable.