By Rick Gethin
We’re making the right moves but, obviously, it’s a bit late. Momentum from this year can only carry on to next year as we’re going to have the same core group here. ~ CBJ Captain Rick Nash
I picked the Columbus Blue Jackets to finish 2nd in the Central Division and secure a solid place in the Western Conference Playoffs. I, nor anyone else, could forsee the season unraveling for the boys in Union Blue the way that it did. Downright ugly describes the middle of the season in a nutshell.
The 2009-2010 season was one filled with expectations that seemed bold when said aloud to start the season, and that might explain the fans displeasure with the team as we near the end of regular season play. “I think the expectations were there for all of us,” said Mike Commodore, “not only the organization and the fans, but for the players, too.” With 10 games to play, the best that they can hope for is 10 wins and a total of 90 points. Is this realistic? In a word, no. But what can easily be achieved is a record of 5-4-1 for a total of 81 points, which would give them their 2nd best season in franchise history. It’s all in how you look at it.
Much has been made about what went wrong with the Blue Jackets this season. From the coaching change that had to happen to players having an off year, almost regressing, if you will. There have even been comments made about blowing up the team and starting from scratch, which would be a huge mistake.
Successful clubs build from within, and that is what GM Scott Howson is doing. The prospects that are in the pipeline now will see play at the NHL level within a few seasons, beginning in 2010-2011.
The mistakes that were made during the Doug MacLean era in Columbus are being rectified, but that change can’t happen overnight. This is truly Scott Howson’s team now, and he will sink or swim with how it goes over the next 12-15 months. The core of the team is in place and the skill and confidence of the players is becoming more focused.
The Blue Jackets want to finish the season strong, not only for themselves but for the fans, as well. “Obviously you use different things to motivate yourself,” Commodore said. “It hasn’t been a great year, so more than anything we just want to put a good showing together so that the fans are happy; so that the fans see some wins and we’re not getting booed off the ice.”
The players in the room are cognizant of what this season means to the fans, after suffering through losing seasons. “This franchise has gone through some tough years,” said Commodore. “Last year was a good year, and we were looking to improve on that. And that didn’t happen. As far as that goes, I think failure is a strong word but I don’t know what other word to use. Obviously, our goals were to try and grow and make the playoffs again. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. You know what? If we finish strong this year and have some confidence going into the summer, hopefully we can get off to a good start next year.”
Mike Commodore’s comments are echoed throughout the locker room. They’re not happy with the way this season has gone for them. They want to do right for the fans. The denizens of Nationwide Arena deserve that.
Rick Gethin was an Associate Editor of TheHockeyWriters.com.