directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Playoff push-overs

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Playoff push-overs

The Columbus Blue Jackets are all but eliminated from this year's playoff chase.

With 11 games remaining the Jackets sit 7 points out of the 8th seat. They have 4 remaining games against the Detroit Red Wings (and 3 of their next 4), 2 against the Nasvhille Preds, 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks and 1 against the Calgary Flames. So that's 9 of the 11 remaining games against teams higher than them in the standings.

Um yeah.....insert fork into playoff hopes here.

The Jackets would have to go some 9-1-1 to maybe have a chance to sneak in. Ain't gonna happen.

On a brighter note this is the longest into the season that the Jackets could even speak the word "playoffs" without cracking a smile. They've hung in there at least 2 months longer than any previous version before them.

At the end of the year they will have finally taken some needed steps that most expansion teams took in their 3rd or 4th years. They have been competitive in 90% of their games. They've found an identity as a "defense first" team who creates offense from checking. They've certainly identified who is part of the future and who, if not gone already, are part of the past.

Some key achievements:

1. Should break the record for points in a season
2. Should break the record for most road wins in a season
3. Career best years for cornerstones Nash, Zherdev and Leclaire
4. Breakout years for depth guys Boll and Murray

Unfortunately though its time, once again, to look towards next year. There is no bigger offseason in terms of impact than this one will be.

During what was a very inactive offseason in terms of player movement most fans gave the team a pass after former GM Doug Maclean was let go new GM Scott Howson was brought in. It was also coach Ken Hitchcock's first full season with this group. Although everyone most certainly wanted success most were realistic and knew this would be an evaluation year as Howson was afforded time to analyze the hand he was dealt and allow a majority of MacLean's contracts to expire before he could really put his stamp on the team.

Most thought, 2008-2009 was the year and that certainly has not changed.

Howson's honeymoon is officially over come Sunday, April 6th 2008 after the Jackets play their final game of the campaign of the 2007-2008 season.

He MUST make some big time moves this offseason. He'll have the money and assets to do so. He's set himself up well in that manner. There are no ifs, ands or buts here -- if this team wants any kind of fan support moving forward the time is now.

Howson has made relatively low key, low risk moves throughout his first season. Sure he let Foote go and tried to land Richards but letting players go is the easy part and "trying" won't be good enough this summer. He will have to be bold, he will have to make some big transactions, he will have to commit some big dollars and part with valuable assets.

He does not have the luxury of waiting to be build any longer that the former regime had and took advantage of and failed miserably at.

Fans will not want to hear "the right deal was just not there" or that "he would have had to give up to much" or he "wasn't willing to commit those kinds of dollars or terms".

These fans will have no more of that bullshit.


Because they have committed those kinds of dollars, they have watched this team when the wins just weren't there and they have given up alot of time, money and emotion following this team for 7 seasons (if you include the year lost for the lockout) with zero reward.

They've sat through 7 years of Wings fans and their taunts, the league laughing at them year after year, the smugness of the Canadian media, the shots from the Brett Hulls/Roberto Luongos/Dominik Haseks saying "we can't lose to a team like Columbus"... the crap that's constantly printed that reads 'x' fans will even show up when the play Columbus.. the year after year rankings in the bottom half of the league... heck they, as I, are even tired of the damn draft and seeing our team's name in the top 7 yet again...

Quite frankly they've had it.... enough is enough... this team has to taste some real success next year...they have to feel the excitement of playoff hockey.. I don't care if you have the worldwide fan base of the New York Yankees if you lose for 7 straight years the fans will stop caring.

What's left of the life in this franchise is being sucked out and only a big offseason that will produce a legit playoff caliber lineup will be accepted heading into next season.

If that doesn't happen. If Howson can't make the right moves. If ownership isn't willing to spend and even perhaps take a bigger loss than usual to get this team over the hump then I will seriously start worrying about the future of NHL hockey in this market. From Hitchcock willing to hang around, towards our franchise player like Nash staying invested in this team to just how many fans will be left.

Its a lot of pressure for a 2nd year GM but as a former GM who left this franchise in such a god forsaken mess used to say, its part of the package.

I think Scott Howson is well aware of all these points and I really believe he'll be able to get the job done this summer and provide Hithcock with the neccessary talent to finally get this into the playoffs not only for next year, but for years to come.

For his and the Blue Jackets sake, I hope I"m right.


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