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New Columbus coach thinks he can turn things around for Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov

Sep 2, 2010, 10:30 PM EDT

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scottarnielcoach.jpgThe Columbus Blue Jackets are hoping for an improved output in 2010-11 after a horrific 09-10 campaign, even though they haven’t added much in terms of talent. The Blue Jackets are pinning their hopes on the internal improvement that could come from adding new head coach Scott Arniel.

The question is, can Arniel save the day for his hockey team, much like his predecessor Ken Hitchcock helped thwart a shoplifter?

NHL.com caught up with Arniel today, asking him if he could improve the productivity of two talented but troubled players: goalie Steve Mason and prospect Nikita Filatov.

While Arniel “isn’t making any promises,” he did notice a few signs of possible improvement from Calder winner and Vezina candidate turned below average second year netminder Steve Mason.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is he’s taken on his conditioning, taking it to another level, and he’s worked hard this summer,” Arniel told NHL.com. “He spent time with goalie coach Dave Rook in London (Ont.) and he got in here early and looked good. I think after that success in his first year, he got very busy in the offseason and probably didn’t delegate the right amount of time to his training and it might have affected him early on in the season with the injuries. But he recognized that and it’s one area he’s looking after.

“I’ve told the guys that they need to control what they can control and to me that’s being in tip-top shape and working your butt off. From everything I’ve heard and seen so far, Steve has done just that.”

Thumbnail image for Steve Mason.jpgAs the NHL.com story pointed out, Mason’s issue might have been the fact that the league exploited his weak glove after gaining more video-based knowledge as the young goalie made more appearances. While some might wonder if Mason’s biggest issue is talent, Filatov’s problem might be between his ears. While positive actions will matter a lot more than optimistic words, Arniel also had some nice things to say about the talented Russian.

“Nikita has to come in here and earn a spot on our hockey team,” Arniel said. “There were some ruffled feathers last year by his departure to go back to Russia, and it certainly didn’t work out the way he had hoped. He didn’t have the success he thought he was going to have and I think he got humbled a little bit by it. I’ve had a really good talk with him and he wants to play here, he wants to make this work for him. He knows that if he doesn’t make the hockey team that he’ll go to Springfield (in the American Hockey League). We can use his offense if he comes in and buys in to what everyone else is doing.”

Then again, it’s not like the new coach is going to trash high-end prospects, especially in early September. It might not mean anything concrete, but the mere possibility that the team might have some much-needed stability should hearten Blue Jackets fans.

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