Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Frustration: Blue Jackets Lack of Excuses

It may be just as hard to put into words what is bouncing around in my head as it is to try and figure out a suitable title, but I am going to give it a shot in the next few posts.  There have been some interesting revelations in the Blue Jackets fan community that I have been somewhat shouting for over a year now, which both excites me and makes me nervous.  While I like being correct about things, I also realize that what I am right about is one of the harder things to resolve in this league.

First and foremost, Scott Howson has done his job.  Over the past couple years, he has compiled a collection of players that (on paper) could easily compete deep into the playoffs.  From the team he has built, we have seen some incredible (albeit brief) stints of competitive hockey, some that rival the best teams in the league.  He has mixed skill and grit with youth and leadership.  He combined puck moving defensemen with big-bodied stay at home defenders who have shown the ability to cripple offenses, and has put his confidence in a solid goaltending tandem that on nights have made the opposing team whither away.  But for some reason, it wasn't enough.

The issues that run deep with this team could easily be mental.  Getting back-doored and one-timed for the better part of last year, along with the verbal beatings by Ken Hitchcock that Steve Mason took clearly hit home hard, shattering his confidence and ability to challenge the shooter.  So much so that during the course of this year, each time his confidence in the defense shrinks, so does his size in net and ability to suck the puck into his pads rather than leaving big rebounds.  Subsequently, we have watched as a bad goal cripples this team and sends them packing well before final buzzer sounds.

The issues could also be physical.  There is no question the physical demands of hockey are high, and the issue first arose when our highest paid defensemen opted to scratch himself last year due to being incapable of doing his job, citing physical toughness.  Far be it from me to ask the blatantly obvious question, but how is it even remotely reasonable to put together a team of "professionals" and expect fans to drop their hard earned money into the team when they can't even stay physically fit?  Are there not people who are paid to make sure this is a part of the players routine?  Are the millions of dollars spent in contracts not enough incentive for them to stay exceptionally healthy?

The issues could relate to the leadership on this team.  Rick Nash remains one of my favourite players in the NHL to watch, however, his leadership abilities seem to be heavily lacking.  Watching him play a team game, and a shutdown game at the World Championships and Olympics was an absolute treat, which makes me wonder why he puts so much more heart into those games rather than the team/city who idolize him.  No doubt, he was the one bright light this team had for many years, but those years are over.  It is time for him to start making a difference, and not by himself.  The selfish play, the lazy skating, it all needs to stop.

The issues do not relate to the fans.  I have been a fan of a number of teams during my lifetime thanks to moving and relocating, but I have never seen a fanbase like this.  I have watched as this group has become hockey savvy, and I think it's about time the team started giving to the fans what they have bleed for the team for a decade.  We're in year ten, and for some wonderful reason, people still care about this team.  For some ridiculous reason, people still fill the seats to watch the team lay back and let the opposing team embarrass them.  It was one thing when the opposition was simply that much better, but let's be honest... is that really the case anymore?

The issues to do not relate to a lack of talent.  The Jackets roster is full of scorers, leaders, grinders, and playmakers.  Of the Jackets 17 (plus 3 OT) losses, I can probably bet with confidence that only two or three were games they should have won.  Their play is so convincingly bad that it makes me wonder what exactly goes through their minds during the games.  In fact, this small paragraph won't be worth much, because this is the one thing I can flat out say I don't even come close to comprehending.  I have played some competitive hockey in my heyday, and I can honestly say I packed it in maybe a couple times.  People who are this good should be competitive to the core, and this team, sadly, is not.

I would love to hear what everyone else thinks on this.  I'm still carrying the flag, just a little more pessimistic than usual.


  1. Scott Howson has not done his job. We still lack a viable PP quarterback and 1st line center. Those needs were there from the day he took the job. His patience has help build depth in the organization but let's face it we still do not have to top end talent to go deep in the playoffs.

  2. I think we have a handful of guys that can QB the powerplay. My biggest issue with the powerplay is the inability to get the puck deep, and lazy, soft passes once the zone is achieved. Sharp, quick passes spreads out PK units, which can easily lead to great scoring opportunities. Even with the best powerplay QB in the league, we're still not going to score while a man up.

    And I do think Howson has done everything beyond overpaying for a number one center, which I am glad for. The cost of acquiring Richards was ridiculously steep, and there were no good options this past off-season via free agency. I support his decision to not throw away years of development and franchise depth for a single player, and I think Brassard is plenty capable of developing into a number one center. What I don't think, is that Nash has given anyone the opportunity to become the teams top center, because at least in recent games, he carries the puck into the zone and either forces the play wide and passes into traffic, or takes a weak shot on goal that is easily stopped. Even with Toews/Thornton/<> on your team, goals won't be scored with Nash playing like that.