On Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets posted a message from majority owner John P. McConnell on their website. In this message, he addresses three topics important to the fans and to the organization itself.
In the first part he thanks the fans for their continued support of the club. He also asks that they continue to support the club into the future. In the second part, he outlines the reasons that he is optomistic of the future and why the fans should also feel this way. In the third part he addresses the financial issues surrounding the club and what they’re doing to resolve them.
An owner thanking the fans is de rigueur. This is to be expected, not only from the players on the ice, but from everyone within the organization. For without the fans, there would be no team. At least not one in Columbus.
He takes the time to address the season that was. He goes so far as to break it down into three segments. The first is how the club jumped out to a 12-6-2 record in the first 20 games. In his own words, “then came the slump”. You can almost hear the resignation in his voices as he goes on to desribe the club going 3-14-6 in 23 games. He zeroes in on the positives of that stretch, of which there were few. “Six of the 14 regulation losses (excluding empty net goals) were decided by only one goal”, he said. While my cup is always half-full, a loss is a loss. But, he has to put the best face possible on it, does he not?
His use of the term devastating is telling, in this instance. He knows that the hopes of not only the team, but also the fans, started the downward spiral at this point. He even makes mention of the fact that during this losing stretch of games, the players “completely lost their way”. The angst was palpable, from the last seat in the highest section of the arena to the club as a whole.
He considered the ship that is the Blue Jackets righted when they finished the season, even with “significant injuries”, 10-8-6. He believes that the slump accelerated the teams maturity. He mentioned that the youth on the team made major strides forward in their development. Of that, there is no doubt.
Secondly, he states that he remains committed to improving “our team”. While some people have said that means spending to the salary cap or “blowing up” the team, that would be short-sighted on their part. There are many ways to improve a team and not all of them involve spending millions of dollars. He puts the onus on GM Scott Howson by saying that he’s “confident that we will select a new Head Coach who will lead this team to the next level”.
He says he’s excited about next season and hopes that the fans are, too. If there are fans that are not excited, and after this season who can blame them, he said he understands. I don’t think that there are that many fans who are not excited. I think a better term would be jaded.
Lastly, he addresses the financial issues and ownerships efforts to fix them. If you want an in-depth look at the arena issues, please read the outstanding four-part series that our own Jeff Little penned for this site, The Arena Chronicles Parts I II III and IV. Part four of this series was referenced in an e-mail from the team itself and is a must read for any fan of the team. The bottom line of what McConnell is saying is that the arena is the heart of the issue and needs to remedied. He mentions both NFL teams, both MLB teams and the Cavaliers of the NBA (all Ohio teams) that have some form of a private/public partnership with their arenas.
His call to action for fans and citizens in Columbus is the following. “My family does not have the ability to do this alone”, he says. He goes on to say that “it’s time for others to step up and finalize an approach”. He finishes by saying that he wants the team to be here for a long time to come. It seems clear that he wants to carry on his fathers legacy of the Columbus Blue Jackets and now needs help.
My take on this message from John P. McConnell boils down to this. The team isn’t going anywhere, but for it to stay and succeed in Columbus, the citizens must be made aware of what it would mean if the club wasn’t here anymore. Columbus is slowly turning into a destination city, and a big part of that draw is the Columbus Blue Jackets.