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Blue Jackets Links

At least the game was only on in Chicago and Columbus, right?

Monday, February 12, 2007
( Note: I actually was aiming to put this up as a podcast. Livejournal -- that evil yet useful journal site -- has phone numbers which you can call and make voice posts with, and I planned to narrate this instead. But the voice quality through the phone number, coupled with using my cell phone, was just way too poor. )

Three games down. Three games to go.

This six game homestand was supposed to be the Blue Jackets' last stand, in a sense. Starting out at 15 points behind the eighth seeded Minnesota Wild, there was still a sliver of hope that if the Blue Jackets could come out with a respectable record during the home games, that they could at least make some sort of push in the last third of the season.

What that push would lead to is anyone's guess. Right about now most Blue Jackets' fans have to be shaking their heads in disbelief as the team now sits 17 points out of the playoffs, and doesn't look like it will make any sort of headway towards even staying within a decent point margin for the sake of respectibility. The Jackets have dropped two of three at home, showing just how maddening their inconsistency can be by first losing badly in a shutout to Phoenix, winning against Northwest Division-leading Calgary, then losing again to fellow cellar dweller Chicago.

It's true that most Jackets' fans would shrug their shoulders and say that they've accepted this as a fact of life when it comes to their team, but that doesn't help to soften or soothe the sting any more.

Keep in mind that even though last season's Blue Jackets had the best record and the best point total ever, they still didn't finish any closer to the playoffs than they did in their inaugeral season. In that inagural season, a ragtag band of castoffs from other teams managed to stay within 19 points of the eighth seeded Vancouver Canucks. To at least stay in the teens was something worth respecting for a new expansion team.

Yesterday afternoon's game brought with it a variety of concerns and questions leading in to the middle of February, with just a couple of weeks left before the trade deadline. First and foremost are concerns about Fredrik Norrena's ability to hold down the fort when in net. Ever since that five game winning streak back in December, "Steady Freddy" has been just about unable to string together two strong outings in a row unless he has had ample time to rest. He's become a Jekyl and Hyde in a sense, much like the rest of the team around him. With his new two-year contract extension announced on the same day that he was chased from the nets against Chicago, you almost want to wonder if this was the right decision, even factoring in his amazing play earlier in the season.

Next, and this question is extremely important; who is traded, and what can Columbus possibly get in return? The usual list of Blue Jackets' players on the trade block has stayed the same, with underachieving Anson Carter and Fredrik Modin at the top of the list due to General Manager Doug MacLean's struggles in re-signing one or both of them, and Nikolai Zherdev has occasionally been mentioned, but as the severity of his recent illness began to become more public, clamors for his departure also quieted.

Besides the usual suspects, other names have now begun to creep in to the mix, with The Columbus Dispatch recently throwing out players such as Manny Malhotra, Bryan Berard, and team captain Adam Foote as would-be trade bait.

But what can the Blue Jackets get for these players? With the playoff hunt in both conferences so tight, other GMs are acting very shrewdly, and it could very well be a game of chicken between the few teams out of playoff contention, and those teams on the playoff bubble desperately seeking some sort of piece to complete their own team puzzles. While it's normally the teams making it or trying to make it to the playoffs that will blink first, Doug MacLean must be feeling the heat that if he doesn't swing a deal soon, other teams may take advantage of that. If they do ship off their own players to fill other team's gaps before he can, MacLean and the Jackets will be left high and dry, with UFAs aplenty that they'll get nothing for.

MacLean would be wise to not trade for draft picks. Or at least not trade only for draft picks. It stands to reason that this upcoming NHL Entry Draft is not going to have anywhere near the yield of skill as the last one, and the Blue Jackets need fresh blood that can help the team if not immediately, then at the start of next season. This team does not have the luxury of time to go in to a rebuilding mode, especially when it has not yet made the playoffs.

Either way, the Blue Jackets find themselves in the sixth year of their short history, and still no playoff berth to offer up to their fans as appreciation for being so loyal. While storied teams such as the Blackhawks and the Bruins suffer and writhe in what seems like fanbase death throes all thanks to several bad years, the Blue Jackets continue to coast by due to their expansion label, and a fan base that has adamantly clung to this team despite their poor performance year in and year out.

The question is, how much longer can this keep up? Something has to give. Let's just hope that it's the Blue Jackets who give the city of Columbus a taste of the playoffs first, before the fans simply give up.

Labels: ,

  • At 12:29 PM, Blogger hockeygirl said…

    At least the game was only on in Chicago and Columbus, right?

    I tuned in, well, because, I have room in my heart for two and um, unless something happens soon, said heart will be broken and empty.

  • At 12:48 PM, Blogger Michael said…

    Whoops! Neglected to consider the Canadian markets.

    State-side, NBC blacked out the game everywhere save for Chicago and Columbus. We were supposed to be broadcast in those two states as a whole at least, but only got broadcast in the two city areas. Didn't even have an NBC in-the-glass analyst, either.

    I'm kinda glad we avoided national embarrassment now, though. *Dejected sigh.*

  • At 7:01 PM, Blogger hockeygirl said…

    Yes, thank you to the wonder that is Centre Ice, I was able to feast my eyes on the good and the bad of the "game."

    I was left wondering how both of those teams managed to beat the Flames recently and then remembered we were the road team.

  • At 12:39 PM, Anonymous nancy said…

    Anyone want to make book on how quickly Nikolai Zherdev gets set packing??

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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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