By Rick Gethin
“But the plot thickens everyday,
And the pieces of my puzzle keep crumbling away,
But I know, there’s a picture beneath…”
The din of apathy outside the dressing room is getting louder by the day, while the players are pulling even closer together. The majority of these guys have been together for a few years and are maturing into a better team. While it doesn’t show in the stats, the are laying solid groundwork for the future of this club.
Yes, I’ll admit that things look bleak for the boys in Union Blue. 16 games remain and it seems that it will take them winning 12-13 of those games to be in the playoffs. Some would say the odds ofthat occurring are insurmountable. But, if you look at this season, you will see thatthey have done just that.
While they got off to a fast start going 14-6, it’s a stretch in late January/early February that tells the tale. Between January 19th and and February 25th, they played 14 games to record of 10-3-1 for 21 points. Arguably, they need to take 24 of a possible 32 points in the last 16 games. They need to be better than that run; actually, even hotter. They believe they can do it. And some of the veteran voices in the room are trying to help them do just that.
“The most important thing I’ve learned,” said Ethan Moreau, “is that I’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve been out by this much (8 points) and gotten in. I’ve been on teams that were comfortably in and skidded down the stretch. It’s all about energy. It starts with the coaching staff an goes through the leaders in the room. Regardless of a tough loss, we have to show up to the rink and work hard and keep a positive frame of mind. You can’t mope around and you can’t get down. As soon as you get down with your energy, it’s over.”
“I think they’ve handled it (adversity) really well. This is a group of guys who have been together for 3, 4 or 5 years. Maturity comes with that and you can see it. We’re not quite there yet. But, we’ll take the next step and see what happens over the last 16 games. “
“From the bottom, it looks like a step incline,
From the top, another downhill slope of mine,
But I know, the equilibrium’s there…”
Recently acquired waiver pick-up Craig Rivet is another veteran player trying to help make a difference. Said Rivet, “The biggest thing is to not look too far ahead. We just need to worry about the game we have next. We need to win that game, that’s the bottom line. Things change so quickly at this time of year.”
“Within a week from now, after we win some games, we’re going to be right back in the thick of things. It’s going to be an extremely tough task. These last two games against St. Louis, they didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves. Absolutely, no doubt in my mind.”
“These are things that we need to get better at. These are things that this team needs to grow and understand that whe we’re playing a tight game, when you’re up goals you need to just keep pushing. You have to play 60 minutes of hockey, every night. “
Head coach Scott Arniel has a fire in his eyes that shows he believe’s that they can make the playoffs. I asked him if this team can mentally win 11, 12 or 13 games down the stretch. ” Yes, I believe we can,” he said excitedly. “This is a team that seems to feed off of success of one or two games and get’s to feeling very confident. I think that a big win tomorrow nigh against a very good L.A. (Kings) team might be what springboards us into Carolina (Hurricanes) for a win. This team has showed a little bit of that already this season and let’s hope that it strikes again.”
They have 6 games remaining against Eastern Conference teams, against which they seem to play well in. “If we can gain 12 points, that’s gigantic. If we need 13 wins (to make playoffs), if 6 of them come against the East that will certainly be a boost.”
He’s also noticed the veteran players helping out the younger guys. “I heard all of those guys (veterans) be very positive and upbeat on th bench and in the room. When we have meetings, those guys have all certainly been very vocal. Whether it’s being vocal or leading by example on the ice, this is what we get from our veteran players.”
Sixteen games remain in the regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sixteen games with which to make a statement. Th fat lady may be warming up off-stage, but she sure hasn’t begun to sing yet. I think if she tried to sing right now, she’d be chased through the bowels of Nationwide Arena by 23 angry guys with hockey sticks.
And so, I leave you with this gem. To be a hockey fan, you have to be little crazy.
Some may never live, but the crazy never die.
Italicized lyrics from Faith No More – Falling To Pieces.