DKM Hockey Podcast

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What to Expect Here

I thank you for stopping by and taking a peek. If you are Blue Jackets fan, you may often not like what I have to say here. If you love, and truly love hockey, you will understand what I write here. Any day of the week, I would rather play hockey than watch hockey. I love hockey.  I revere hockey.  When I'm not playing or coaching, I love to talk hockey. In Columbus, OH, home of the losingest team in the NHL since it's inception, the conversation can be limited.  Hmm, "losingest" isn't in spell check...

I am not a fan of the Blue Jackets, however I love them by proxy. They have been my perpetual "know-it-all" teenage son since 1999.  The fan base is a gaggle of likewise teenage girls who follow my son around at the mall, peeking out from behnd displays, too embarrassed to really get to know him, but quick to defend what they adore about him. The media treats the Blue Jackets like a Junior Varsity team at a prep rally, maybe a little Freshman Rah to boot.  The print guys in town being the only credible cheerleaders, the team performance begets is broadcast crews.  But much like my real children, I don't let my love get in the way of a teaching moment or my expectations for them.  My expectations of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets are high but measured and realistic.

I am really not a fan of a team, rather a sport or an event.  I am an Ohio State Buckeye who married a Wolverine. I have Red Sox bloodlines and I see a Yankees game every chance I get.  I've owned Chevy and Ford.  I've voted Democrat and Republican.  I've had guppies named Montague and Capulet.  Those of you who know me personally understand why I grew up finding fandom to be odd.  I did have (and do have) favorite players growing up.  If either Cam Neely or Pavel Bure had a gender reassignment procedure, then made sweet love to each other and popped out a hockey player who wasn't named Doug Gilmour, I wanted it to be me.  I practiced Mike Bossy's shot in the basement, I took Phil Esposito like two-minute shifts on the ice.  Mike Greenwell is the only reason I bought baseball cards.

For the traditional fans of the Blue Jackets the only experience most have had to hockey, or how a pro sports team should be run, is the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I remember the "Welcome to the NHL, Columbus" TV commercials that ran 11 years ago.  The lasting impression in my mind was the clip of a guy standing behind a meat counter or a butcher counter saying, "Hockey?  In Ohio?"  I still think that way today as well.  To be honest, I've always thought the Blue Jackets would be the 2012-2013 Hamilton Bulldogs.  But apparently billionaire hockey lovers don't get to relocate hockey teams, but the league continues to allow Atlanta be the "Starter Wife" for Western Canadian NHL franchises.

I will always be critical of two things about the Blue Jackets: 1. the perpetual lack of talent developement in all aspects (is utterly inexcuseable)  2. The culture that management continues to allow to exist in the dressing room.  And to this point I don't mean attitude or partying, I mean culture.  Where's the easiest place to make a million bucks as a player in the NHL?  Columbus, OH.  No pressure, coaching musical chairs, minimal media atttention, and a niche (but loyal) fan base.  Management has helped develop that expectation.  Doug MacLean was poor exectution of the right idea.  He chased difference makers out of town because of contrarian beliefs.  Ken Hitchcock was a step in the right direction but he had to deal with a dollar-menu budget and a team that started losing money.  And Scott Howson, as nice of a guy as he is, isn't in a role he's well suited for and should step down.

Which brings us to today.  The casual charm of the pre-lockout Blue Jackets is gone.  We're left with a CBJ team in turmoil and a confused fan base ready to chase the only gem from a team that's otherwise only ever been a polished terd (I believe its spelled TURD in Canada and Great Britian, that "U Thing" messes me up).  This team has been in the league 11 years and it's winningest goaltender is its most loathed.  All the fans have done since the inaugurial season is they've waited for that one day when the mail man will pull up in front of the house and drop off this package called "winning."  It happened in Tampa.  It happened in North Carolina.  It happend in Disneyland.  Why hasn't it happened in Columbus?  Where are you mail man?  This is what I'm here to help you understand...

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