Instead of doing a “three things” as I normally would come Monday morning, I wanted to go in another direction.
You see, following a pair of losses on Friday and Saturday night (a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins followed by a 4-2 loss to the slumping Philadelphia Flyers), a thought hit me: this season is already over.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of person who shouts “game over, man!” from the rooftops at the first sign of trouble, but this is it, right? We’re to the end of November and the Blue Jackets are tied for the fewest points in the NHL with powerhouse basement dwellers like the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres. Those are two teams TRYING to lose (well, one of them, anyway), not coming off an exciting playoff run and having a boatload of momentum.
The injuries are obviously the biggest issue here. They already have an absurd 136 man-games lost to injury this year, with several of those being players that make up the core of this team. It’s hard enough to win on any given night in the NHL, let alone when half of your regulars are sporting hilarious cartoon bandages in the infirmary.
But injury woes aside, the team just hasn’t looked like itself. The trademark of the 2013-14 Columbus Blue Jackets was that Western Conference-like intensity. That fierce, aggressive physical game that made them stand out. That helped them get to the playoffs and actually win a few games while there for the first time in franchise history. That nearly led them to an upset of the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Penguins.
That’s gone and the injuries keep mounting up, but you know something? It’s okay. It’s all going to be totally okay and the Jackets might even consider themselves lucky for it.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “is this writer brain-damaged? How is this okay in any sense?” Well just follow me.
Sure, it sucks to have squandered the most momentum the franchise has had possibly ever, but the core group is still pretty young. They still have a franchise center in his early-20s, a potential franchise goalie (who they’re going to have to pay in the offseason) and an underrated group of defenders to go along with everything else. This team is going to be good again next year when everyone isn’t out cosplaying The Walking Dead. They’ll be fine.
More importantly, they’ve picked the right time to be bad. For those of you that have been living under a rock, the 2015 NHL Draft is set to be a pretty good one. There are a pair of franchise centers available by the name of Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. Both are considered to be elite, once-in-a-generation talents who just happen to be in the same draft. Oh, and the consensus third overall pick just happens to be a defenseman many consider to be on that elite level. So being awful this year has its perks.
I mean, can you imagine if the Jackets landed McDavid or Eichel? Adding a superstar center to this group would give them unreal potential next year and a roster that few in the NHL wouldn’t be jealous of. Not to mention the fact that between whoever they pick and Ryan Johansen, they’d have one of the brightest potential 1-2 center combos in the league. It could all still work out yet.
Of course, the season still has five months to go and the Jackets can’t have injury woes forever, at least theoretically. But maybe they wait to bring back that intensity until 2014-15. It might not be the worst timing in the world for them to be awful this year.
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