How's this for karma?
One reason veteran defenseman Adam Foote wanted out of Columbus was that he wanted to win, and in the NHL that means — at the very least — making the playoffs.
A little more than a year after he was traded back to the Avalanche from the Blue Jackets, Columbus is in the thick of a fight for its first postseason berth and Colorado is in last place in the Western Conference, destined to be done playing when the regular season ends April 12.
Now, with Colorado mired in a 1-7 streak heading into tonight's home game against the Minnesota Wild, the picture is decidedly different. The Avalanche is 23rd in the 30-team league in attendance, with an official average of 15,697, and the official figure of 13,608 for Colorado's 3-0 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers didn't do justice to the number of empty seats in the building.
"With our play of late and the economy, it's all part of the problem," Foote said. "There's nothing you can do except keep going."
And now Colorado is closer to the league cellar than it is to a playoff position.
Now contrast that with this read on RJ Umberger here:
One of the main reasons that the Jackets are in the thick of the playoff hunt is forward R.J. Umberger, a former student at Ohio State.
Through 66 games, Umberger has tallied 23 goals and 15 assists for 38 points and a personal record-breaking season.
"He's been great," captain Rick Nash said. "He's one of the leaders on this team and he's stepped up his game. Every game now is a do-or-die situation. He's been one of our best players and he understands that he has to be."
Umberger has been known to be vocal in the locker room, and he backs it up with his play on the ice.
"He's been really good for us offensively," forward Andrew Murray said. "That's where we've struggled in the last few years is scoring goals and he's been able to step up that way."
"This is the time of the year you have to step up and show that leadership ability," Umberger said. "This is the most fun time of the year, from late February on, and I'm trying to raise my game and go out every night like it's my last game."
"He comes to practice every day, even the ones that are voluntary," Boll said. "He works hard every time he's in the rink. He's just a great influence on everybody around."
"He let us know how hard it is to make the playoffs and how much harder it will get over this last stretch, and how important it is to take care of yourself," Dorsett said.
Even though Umberger comes off as a pretty serious guy, whenever he gets a chance, he messes around with the younger guys.
"He does come off serious, but when it's time to joke around and have fun, he's the first guy to have fun with us," Boll said.
But Boll and Dorsett give it right back.
"We like to get under his skin and bug him just for fun," Boll said. "He's a pretty funny guy to screw around with."
Now where do we send Foote some thank you letters? Afterall if it weren't for Captain Coward bugging out on us we wouldn't have had the 1st round pick to acquire RJ and his 23 goals.
Also don't miss this great read on Rick Nash from NHL.com titled Nash a man for all situations:
"I didn't kill penalties before 'Hitch' got here," Nash said. "When he got here, he explained to me he wanted me to be a complete player, not just meant to score goals. That means on the ice in the last minute if we're up a goal, down a goal, power play, and penalty kill. I just found some good success killing penalties."
"I don't think it's necessary that the captain is there for all aspects, there are strengths and weaknesses," Hitchcock explained. "I think it helps your team when he plays in all of those situations. To me, Rick earned the right and the responsibility.
"I don't think you can be a captain if you're not going to go out and play in the positions where you have to make sacrifices. Killing penalties is the best area where you have to make sacrifices. I don't think you can be a good captain unless you are prepared to go out there and do that job."
...and they keep comin. Check out this read on Steve Mason from CBSSports.com titled At 20, rookie Mason already tagged as 'Franchise' in Columbus
Along the way, Mason turned into the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy as top rookie and a legitimate contender for the Vezina as best goaltender, a feat accomplished by a first-year player only four times in league history, last by Ed Belfour in 1990-91.
There are even some who suggest Mason might be considered for the MVP award if the offensively challenged Jackets, now sitting alone in sixth in the West, do in fact make it to the playoffs.
"He can win games all by himself," said team captain Rick Nash. "There's no question he's the biggest reason we're in the hunt this season."
"Obviously, there is a little pressure, but that comes with any team and the goaltending position," said Mason, a third-round pick by the Blue Jackets in 2006. "Our older guys don't treat you like a rookie. They've made it real easy to step in and feel comfortable here, and I think that has translated to my play on the ice."
"Even if he has a bad night or gives up a goal he'd like to have back, he doesn't let it linger," Nash said. "That's not easy for a young goalie to be thrown into, but I think that's why he has the makeup to be a really good goalie in this league for a long time."
Gotta love the pub a great run for the post-season brings...especially for a team that has never snifffed it. The Jackets are quickly becoming the feel good story of the NHL.