Three good things have happened since. 1) The CBJ went from being the only current NHL team never to make the playoffs to being the only current NHL team never to win a playoff game and 2) Boomer is gone. 3) The die-hard fan base actually fills the R-Bar now. Alas, we still have Stinger. Read below and tell if there is any reason to think differently today than I did 4 seasons ago. I moved back to Columbus in mid-2009.
|I bet you thought that I was dead!|
I love the Blue Jackets. I spent my formative years in Ohio as my family was New England transplants. I lived the Ohio hockey life from the home of the Football Hall of Fame. It was 30 minute drive to Pee-Wee practices in Kent, 70 minute drive to practice for midgets in Shaker, so on and so forth. I went to Ohio State, got a job in Columbus, and fell in love with the Blue Jackets in the fall of 2000. I saw the first game, Nash’s first goal, Zherdev’s first goal (twice), and I’ve put up with the (remedial at best) fan base for 8 years. I have since moved to the Detroit suburbs in 2006, but still love the jackets.
That novelty is beginning to fade and this season’s NHL direct TV pass may be my last.
Front office of the past:
McLean’s tenure was past it’s welcome from a ‘winning team’ point of view. He got lucky in Florida when teams were only allowed to protect 10 players in the expansion draft. However, as President and “man behind the curtain” coach in C-bus, operated a profitable franchise which is an unseen gem in the wasteland of Ohio Professional Hockey. He was too hands-on with the players as a suit, and hired yes men as coaches in King and Gallant. His free-agent “busts” all hated him (then left to win cups with other teams) Marchant, Sydor, Marshal, Hartigan x 2 (who doesn’t really count, but while we’re on the subject) and fell in love with the dirtiest of words come draft day, “potential.” You need a good talent evaluator in your front office on draft day or trading day. Mclean never understood that. Let’s hope the new guy can do that better than Mclean, or hire someone who can.
I like Hitch, but he needs someone to open up the wallet. Albert Einstein could turn poop into a party hat, but you didn’t wear it to the opera.
The players: Columbus, OH - the ultimate professional pick up hockey destination.
The team has no chemistry, no tradition, no bond. Guys like Foote, Letowski, and Richardson were amazed that after practice, the guys were off doing their own thing and not hanging out. Even the wives noticed. Caroline Marchant was amazed. She said while in Edmonton, the guys would leave for practice at 8am and the wives wouldn’t expect the guys home until 5pm, on non game days. They’d do stuff together after practice. In Columbus, Todd was home most mornings by 11am. Speaking of wives, Columbus is in last place in that category as well.
Sure those guys got into a little trouble on the road, (have you ever seen Deron Quint drink?) but Derain Hatcher would have more chicks at the bar after a game in Columbus than Manny Maholtra.
Rick Nash will leave the team in two years, or will be playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the NHL when Columbus moves there for the 2011-2012 season on a brief contract extension. Nash will win a championship with a team that can regularly make the playoffs, I don’t see him getting “Rcik Nash” punched onto Lord Stanley’s cup in Columbus. I don’t see anyone in the front office or the current ownership group of the Blue Jackets willing to invest money in the team. Hamilton deserves a team.
Second Rate Media
Ok, the print guys are great in Columbus, but broadcast media, ug. We get the Cincinnati Mighty ducks announcers. God love Bill Davidge, but Tampa has Phil Esposito doing color on the radio (yeah, I know…). The TV coverage in Carolina (where people are proud that the Cane’s won “that big tournament”) make Columbus’ TV crew look like, dead air, um, dead air. Man, the sports channel guys from the 80’s did a better job. The in-game staff at Nationwide does a great job, even after the mass exodus of the top-notch production crew during the lock-out. God love the soda sluts, I mean Pepsi Crew. Maybe that figure skating Civil War Era guy each year at the home opener is a bit much. Oh, maybe not the media’s fault, but I’m not staying up until 1am to listen to Columbus get reamed by San Jose, Vancouver, and LA 10 times a year. Ok, maybe not in LA. My favorite Jackets TV commercial of all time has to be: “Come see Michael Rupp, Jody Shelley, and Duvie Westcott take on Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Alex Tanguay of the Colorado Avalanche.” I spit milk out of my nose when I heard that one.
Pick one. The fans are going to stop buying them soon anyways. Is Stinger dead yet?
The Fan Base
Columbus is the only place in the known universe where you’ll hear: “Gosh, I miss the Glow Puck; when is Fox going to bring that back?” The only thing the casual hockey fan knows about in Columbus is the freaking FoxTrax. Six bucks and my left shoe says only 1 in 1200 Blue Jackets fans will know that RJ Umberger played hockey at Ohio State. I got booed when I clapped for Ryan Kesler once. I had a CBJ season ticket holder ask me how Dan Fritsche could play at both Ohio State and the Blue Jackets. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a masculine voice cry, “Hand Ball!!” or “Do these guys have day jobs?” or “what does ‘stick handle in a phone booth’ mean?” Take a look at the Blue Jacket’s schedule and tell me if there’s a home game or a televised away game on a college football Saturday that involves Ohio State. What does that say about your fan base? Bobby Hoying draws a bigger crowd than Rick Nash. Bobby f-ing Hoying.
Unless two guys come out of nowhere to score 30 goals, in addition to Nash’s 30 or 40, and two defensemen tally at least 10, we finish 10 points out of 8th place in the West. I see nothing that has been done to fix the one lingering problem the Blue Jackets have always had: scoring goals. Leclaire records 9 shutouts and has a trap-era GAA and the Jackets still finish in 13th place. A top line center is nice, but one top line, two ‘salary cap casualty’ second line guys playing with rent-a-center, and two fourth lines nets you 165 goals at best. Defense wins championships, offense gets you in the playoffs. Jody Shelley puts butts in the seats.
These three things are requisite for the boys in the ever-changing sweaters to have a chance at a post-season bonus:
1. .500 season against the Wings and Preds, (or top two in division, any better than either one and you’re golden)
2. Better than .500 against the Blues and Hawks. (or bottom two in division, any worse that either and it’s tee times come April.)
3. Finish above .500 in your non-conference games against the East.
Of course, you’ll probably need to score 220+ goals to do that, or have your goalies record 19 shutouts.
Three things stick out to me the most:
1) Nash will leave the team
2) In 2007 Leclaire had respectible goaltending stats and the CBJ couldn't support with offence
3) The Blue Jackets haven't turned a profit since 2007.