Friday, March 4, 2011

Expectations - Part One: The Team

Speaking negatively about your favourite team is a very delicate thing.  People have often come to these absurdly hateful conclusions that their team is without talent, without heart, and without fortune at great frequency during the course of a season (pending their teams record of course).  I suppose it is a matter of relevance, but I am sure anyone reading this has at one time or another had the feeling as though their teams world is caving in around them.

Generally, these feelings come during one of the more painful losing streaks a team sees over the course of the regular season.  Most fans have the presence of mind to allow certain 'flaws' by their favourite players and teams to go unnoticed while the team is winning.  Others, those who seek utter perfection, cannot seem to find the good even in a season that finds their team in a very strong seed come playoff time.  I like to think I am stuck right in the middle.  There are times where I will shout with joy when the Blue Jackets play to their potential, beating teams with what appears to be relative ease, but I am no stranger to dissatisfaction.

I do not hold grudges.  In fact, for the players that I do not care for on the team (based solely on their on ice efforts), I strongly support and celebrate any visible signs of improvement, whether it is Huselius leaning over and putting some aggression into his skating, or Stralman bodying up an opposing player and forcing the play back the other way.  While I can openly critique the negatives of these players, I am the first one to give them credit where credit is due.

Unfortunately, my expectations for the Blue Jackets are well above their play of present.  Notably beginning in their loss to Nashville, they have been noticeably rattled and short of what I believe to be the necessary competitive edge that it takes to compete in this league.  I can agree and support that calls are not going their way.  The disallowed goal in the Nashville game being the chapter beginning, all the way to the disastrous number of very marginal calls against them (and not against Edmonton) during their game last night.  But winning hockey games does not rise and fall with the inabilities of the referees.

The first five minutes last night were painful.  Columbus was doing everything right in their defensive zone and the neutral zone.  They were bodying up and playing solid positional hockey, but the quality stopped there.  In the offensive zone, their possession was marginal and their shots were mediocre.  To argue that they really forced Dubnyk to make strong saves at all last night would be a bit of a mockery toward their talent level.  Perimeter shots (if you really want to call them shots) were easily turned aside, with little to no pressure in front of the net.  Plays along the boards showed no real sign of structure or support from the secondary players awaiting the puck.  It was as if Columbus thought time on attack was going to win them the game.

The powerplay is worse now than it was last year.  I cannot tell you how many times I counted forced passes through the middle of the ice, which were either sloppy and not easily receivable, or soft and intercepted before they reached their intended target.  Edmonton, very clearly one of the worst teams in the league, had their way with Columbus.

This post will not offer solutions.  It was a matter of expressing my personal disdain at their lack of success over the last three games, and I do not believe they have anyone to blame but themselves.  All three games were very easily winnable if they had of done the right things, but they failed both themselves and those watching them, hoping for them.  Six points.  I suspect they will not be looking for any sympathy, but they flat out deserve to be watching the playoffs from their homes at this point.  This see-saw of effort that has pained the Columbus franchise for years now could be the main thing forcing fans to re-think their allegiances towards the team next year, and again, I do not blame them.

All I can hope for is they get their heads out of the sand.  They have the opportunity and the team to become something special.  I will continue to watch their games without emotion until they show me they want to win, and when they do, I will go back to 'whooping and hollering' every time they do something great.  Until then, all I can do is expect more.  My expectations will not diminish or decrease just because they are choosing to play weaker hockey than they are fully capable of.

I will provide a follow up to this post this weekend, regarding Rick Nash and his 'streakyness' on the ice.  I do not suspect many will agree with me, but I think it is time to chat about what causes him to score in streaks, and what causes him to do whatever the hell it is that he has been doing over the last 3-4 games.

Carry the Flag!

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