Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Columbus Blue Jackets - NHL Power Rankings Dunce Once More

Every year I look forward to the 'power' rankings that flow out of the mainstream hockey sites, predicting yearly standings and stating their powerhouses. Every year, it seems, the number of fans outweighs the actual moves made, and team prestige is basically a pre-requisite for acquiring the coveted top 5 spot.

I am not tired of reading them. It actually gets me excited to step away from my fandom and read a more or less negative review of the team I have been following for a decade, and yet somehow, I always walk away disappointed.

This year, it is fairly consistent across the board that the Jackets will finish no better than 26th in the league. More often than not, excuses driving that number suggest that the only move Columbus has made this off-season is acquiring Moreau. Also not uncommon, discussions about Commodore's conditioning, the health of Mason, and the mindset of Filatov. Call me a homer all you want, but really? Is that all it takes to make an NHL club?

Sometimes it is worth ignoring some of the developing youth on the team, but more often than not, the youth of a team becomes the driving force for the year. Colorado showed that adding two youngsters can truly help a team become a playoff contender, so why all the ignorance towards the Jackets youth? Russell had a banner year last year, not only with the puck, but without it as well. Voracek is showing more and more signs of being a full on 25g/50a workhorse. Brassard showed he can be healthy, even in a system that played to every weakness of his game.

These are all things that should be accounted for. Especially when the team hired a coach to play an offensive game, more suited for 80% of the current roster, including Nikita Filatov, who finally gets to play without the massive target on his back. Obviously these are all things that could (and may) be stretched into entire posts, but really are only the tip of the iceberg in Columbus' development this year.

Finally, Mason. Many peg him as a one hit wonder with a sophomore slump, but I maintain it was a hitchcock slump. His numbers AFTER Hitch was fired were better than his rookie season (.923) and with a healthy defensive core, along with a hopefully conditioned Mike Commodore could spell a very strong return to the form shown in 2008/2009 by the Jackets defense.

Paint me homer all day long, but I can not come up with enough excuses why this team will not be good this year. There are too many logical pieces to the puzzle fitting too many pre-oiled holes. It's game on in Ohio's capital.

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