A Blue Jackets New Years Resolution

Christmas is over, and the NHL is entering the second half of the 2013-14 season. The time for making holiday “wishlists” is now over. For the teams ready to compete for a playoff berth, the time for “wishing” is gone and the time for resolutions is upon us.

As with all people, the teams with the right amount of belief and determination will find themselves successful in their resolutions. Those without will be the ones left using their expensive elliptical machine as a clothes rack come May. With all that said, what follows are some possible resolutions for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014.

A Healthy New Year

James Wisniewski has emerged as a top tier point producing defenseman with the Jackets in the 2013-14 season. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

James Wisniewski has emerged as a top tier point producing defenseman with the Jackets in the 2013-14 season. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

To be certain, there can be no guarantees that the Blue Jackets will suddenly stop experiencing injuries in 2014, but given the onslaught that has plagued the team through the first 38 games of the 2013-14 season, a reprieve from the injury cycle would of course be welcomed by all within the organization. So far, the team seems to be trending in the right direction.

Despite losing Marian Gaborik minutes into his first game back after a 17-game absence (which stemmed from a sprained knee) as a result of a broken collarbone, the team recently regained the services of James Wisniewski, who has almost silently amassed the 10th highest points total for defensemen in the league this year, despite missing 7 games with an upper-body injury. The Blue Jackets also look poised to welcome back Sergei Bobrovsky. And as a big after-Christmas present, Nathan Horton took his first full-contact practice on December 26 since signing with the team. He likely won’t crack the lineup until the new year, but the Jackets will certainly continue to improve with such an influx of talent to the lineup.

The Blue Jackets could seek to benefit from the Olympic layover as well. Although they should be well-represented at the games, particularly with upwards of 4 Blue Jackets representing host nation Russia (Bobrovsky, Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin, and Nikita Nikitin), the Olympics should also represent a time for many of the team’s top contributors, including Wisniewski and leading scorer Ryan Johansen, to rest and recover. Although Olympic participation is a great honor for players in the NHL, being left off an Olympic roster is not the worst thing — the weight of those extra games and travel can catch up with players.

A Wealthy New Year

An unfortunate reality of the 2013-14 season is that the Blue Jackets have not fared well at the box office. Despite the team’s ascent towards relevance last season and the very clever “Defend NWA” advertising campaign for this season, the team has actually taken a step back by nearly 1,200 fans through the gate for every game this season.

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There are multiple reasons for why the Blue Jackets may be struggling at the gate, starting, surprisingly enough, with the move to the Eastern Conference. Sure the Jackets are much closer to their nearest competitors with the move to the East. Unfortunately, there is no sense of rivalry against these teams and thus less incentive to take in the action live, despite the wonderful amenities that Nationwide Arena and the entire Arena District has to offer.

The Blue Jackets could see a bump in attendance when key offseason signing Nathan Horton suits up for the team in the new year. (Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch)

The Blue Jackets could see a bump in attendance when key offseason signing Nathan Horton suits up for the team in the new year. (Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch)

One perk to playing in the stacked Central Division was that there was no lack of high end talent rolling through NWA. Also, it was easy to develop a strong sense of dislike for teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, historical franchises still considered to be perennial Stanley Cup favorites.

Now, however, with a move to the underwhelming Metropolitan Division, and with a change in scheduling which ultimately reduces the number of opportunities for the people of Columbus to see the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin at NWA, there is less buzz around the arena.

Although better attendance may sound like a poor resolution, the fact remains that the Jackets are a different team when NWA is raucous, and the fans who haven’t been going to the games lately have been missing one of the absolute most exciting and electrifying teams in the NHL for the last month.

Name a Team Captain

Okay, so maybe this last bit doesn’t exactly fit with the new years resolution model. And okay, maybe it’s been talked about, a lot, but there’s no sense putting the decision off any longer.

Head Coach Todd Richards claims he wants his team to be hard to play against; nobody better embodies that than Brandon Dubinsky. Maybe he has some faults, maybe he is a little over-aggressive and maybe he hasn’t quite made the most of the opportunity laid bare for him to be named team captain. But as it is for most new years resolutioners, this team just won’t reach their goals without a guide to keep them motivated towards the end goal.

With the Columbus Blue Jackets two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils for the final guaranteed spot in the Metropolitan Division playoff picture, and positioned 5 points shy of the wild card chase in the East, now is not a time to wander aimlessly and without leadership. The time is now to be resolute, and naming an official team captain will go a long way to solidifying this team’s objectives, which should, and will, include a berth in the post-season.

Andrew Roman
Andrew is a professional student earning his Masters at WVU. He enjoys craft beer and watching open wheel racing. Find him on Twitter: @andrewroman.
Andrew Roman

2 Comments

  1. What nobody seems to talk about regarding naming a captain, is that maybe, quite possibly, Horton will become the next one. Difficult to name a captain that hasn’t played a game for the franchise, but I’m sure the front office has this in the back of their minds. The lack of a captain doesn’t mean there is a lack of leadership, get over the absence of one so far. There IS sense in putting off the decision, for those who aren’t so short-sighted.

    • Thanks for the comment! I didn’t want to turn this post into a book so I omitted the argument that could be made for Nathan Horton being named team captain. I think it is very much a possibility. I do, however, think that if the organization had brought Horton in to be the team captain they would have mentioned it before the season started, much like the Oilers did in naming Andrew Ference captain during the offseason.

      Further, I would love to ultimately see Ryan Murray grow into the role, and although there are many positive comments about his leadership potential, perhaps just because he is a defenseman, and they always take a little while longer to develop at the NHL level, it is hard to envision him being ready for such a role for several more seasons.

      What I like about Dubinsky is that he wears his emotions on his sleeve and he takes losing personally. That kind of attitude is just right for keeping this team focused and should hopefully cut out some of the roller coaster streaks that marked the first half of the year. I’m not saying the team should sacrifice prospects and pursue rentals that won’t actually make the team better and walk away after the season ends. The playoffs are there for the taking, a clear cut field general can only help make that process a reality.

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