To start off, I would like to introduce myself to our readers, as your new Contributor on the Columbus Blue Jackets. I will have to admit, I am something of a rarity, a recent Columbus Blue Jackets fan. I started watching this team serious about 3 seasons ago, when I started dating my now Wife, a born and raised Columbus girl. I grew up a New Jersey Devils fan, and still am a fervent follower of that team, but something about the perpetual underdog status of the Blue Jackets caught my attention. After Voracek’s game winning overtime goal against the Senators on December 31’st 2010, and being in that crowd, I was sold. I was a fan. It has been a roller coaster the past couple year, especially since that game, but I see good thing coming for the future of this Franchise. But enough about me lets get to the heart of the subject, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
So after an up and down year, where the team finished 30’th in the league (and lost the Draft Lottery) where does the team sit right now? To fully understand, we have to look at the fantastical amount of turnover that has happened to the team over the past two seasons. After the Rick Nash trade, the longest member of the Blue Jackets is currently Jared Boll at 345 Games, and the leading scorer is R.J Umberger at 198 points. The team now has no all-star player, and no big name Marquee player. Taken individually these facts can paint a bleak landscape, but if you were to look at the larger picture things are looking pretty good for this franchise.
Members of the team and staff seen by outsiders as toxic to the locker room (Carter, Filitov, Commodore, Coach Arniel) are gone. The team’s average age over the past few seasons has dropped to approximately 26 years. After the utter collapse at the beginning of last season, we ended it with 6 wins and 4 losses, and were a perfect 14-0 when having a lead after two periods, as opposed to 9-6-2 under Coach Arniel. After Jack “MF” Johnson joined the team, the players seemed to play harder for each other and there seemed to be a greater bit of unity on and off the ice. With regularity Vinny Prospal called the team out on their shortcomings providing a strong voice of leadership, both on the Ice and in the media. Now there seemed to be an air of accountability between the players on the ice, and they played for each other, and they played for their pride.
It’s these final fact’s that have me the most excited, as they should you. Without a superstar in the room, the team has to be greater than the sum of its parts. This is not Rick Nash’s team, nor MacLean’s, Arniel’s, or Hitchcock’s. This is Columbus’ team and we expect, and deserve, a team that goes on the ice, plays hard hockey, and stands up for each other. We saw some of that at the end of the season, for example Wiz and J. Johnson’s beautiful play together, which saw the perennial minus Johnson notch a plus 5 over twenty games. Another brilliant moment was the beautiful hat trick of Cam Atkinson against Colorado, which epic in its own right, coupled with his 29 goals in the AHL showcases his potential to be a future star in the NHL.
We need to see a team that is putting it all out on the line, day in and day out. With the current group of guys, and the enthusiasm and passion that the members of the team have shown as of late, I expect nothing less than the best from these guys. We may not make the playoffs, nor win the cup this year, but we will see fantastic hockey, and we will see our team grow together and toward the future. And for those facts alone, we have a lot to look forward for the coming season. This is the start of a new era boys. Join the Battle and GO JACKETS!
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