Last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets went through a roller-coaster of a regular season — stumbling out of the gate, then going on an 8-game win streak, followed by a frantic finish in March and April to clinch a playoff spot. Even then, the Blue Jackets roller-coaster twisted and turned in the 6-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, in which the Blue Jackets lost. In defeat, the Blue Jackets made their playoff stay worth watching; it wasn’t a re-enactment of the 2009 playoffs when the Detroit Red Wings throttled the Blue Jackets in four games. The Blue Jackets had something in 2014, that they didn’t have in 2009: collective belief.
On their march to the 2014 postseason, the Blue Jackets believed that they could compete for a Stanley Cup; they didn’t look at the Penguins as being an almighty power, but a team that had tangible vulnerabilities. The Blue Jackets weren’t afraid to get physical, or force their way into the attacking zone. The Blue Jackets did what it took to win. Even though the Blue Jackets came up short to the Penguins last post-season, there is plenty of hope for this season that the Blue Jackets will get back to the playoffs — and advance!
A Fully Operating Machine (Well, Almost)
Bring in Scott Hartnell, but lose R.J. Umberger, it’s the common win-lose situation when marquee people are moved. Hartnell makes the Blue Jackets better, but Umberger knew how the Blue Jacket machine operated. With time, Hartnell will understand how the Blue Jacket machine turns; however, the process is accelerated when others can help out.
A vast majority of the Blue Jackets from last season return. This cohesiveness enables the team to pick-up right where they left off. The defense is solid, and is tougher to cut through than a $2 steak. Offensively, Brandon Dubinsky can keep the machine running, but the reining Blue Jackets point scorer has yet to re-sign.
Even though the belief is that Ryan Johansen will re-sign with the Blue Jackets, playing devil’s advocate doesn’t hurt. In a parallel universe, let’s imagine that Johansen doesn’t return to Columbus; what will the outcome be? The Blue Jackets would lose their reigning point-leader — and the only person to break 60 points last season. However, Dubinsky and James Wisniewski would pick up the slack; while having help from Artem Anisimov, Jack Johnson, Nick Foligno, and everyone else on the offensive end. The Blue Jackets aren’t a one-superstar operation, but an entire team operation.
Knowing The Once Unknown
The world can be a scary place at times. The playoffs can be equally freighting, while also being a heart-wrenching, life-altering two months that can make or break careers.
Every member of the Blue Jackets now knows this once unknown feeling of the playoffs.
Before last season, the current Blue Jackets team only had a couple members (Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin) who knew what it was like to play in a Blue Jackets sweater in late April. With six playoff games under their belt, the Blue Jackets now have a marginal size of experience in the playoffs.
Experience allows belief for success to manifest easily. The key to any successful team is experience; the Blue Jackets have now accumulated the experience, and are using that to create success.
As I’ve mentioned before in an article, Jarmo Kekalainen has a knack for scouting successful players. Kekalainen has hit the ground running in Columbus, and as put the Blue Jackets in a position where they can succeed. To understand how the Blue Jackets operated: Kekalainen deconstructed the team, shipped out players that didn’t quite work in his new scheme, and brought in players who he thought could make a difference.
The outcome is a product worthy of the post-season. Kekalainen had belief that what he was doing was right, and with results, the rest of the team has bought into the belief that the Blue Jackets can win.
Fan Belief Is Key
Question time! What entity helps a team gain momentum?
If your answer is the crowd, then you’re correct! Nationwide Arena being packed is what adds to the Blue Jackets belief that they can run the Metropolitan division in the Eastern Conference. Attendance last year for the Blue Jackets was 26th out of 30. However, Nationwide Arena was packed for the three playoff games; every game needs to feel like a playoff game inside Nationwide Arena. Fan attendance shows that the team is worth watching, but more importantly, shows that the fans have belief that the Blue Jackets will win. Atmosphere is key, the Blue Jackets recent success should create an even more electric atmosphere — with the goal cannon going off even more.
Expect the Blue Jackets to be poised for another successful season, with an elevated belief that they can get back to the playoffs — and make a deep run to the Stanley Cup.