Last week I touched base on the playoff possibilities that still remained for the 2011/2012 season and shared some of the records that would give Columbus a shot of making the playoffs. I determined based on the current point trends of the bubble teams that the Jackets would need about 96 points to make the playoffs, and that a record of 36-11-2 would get it done.
Since writing that piece, Columbus has gone 0-2-1, two games of which they absolutely should have won. It's nothing new. My optimism in that post was limited, and their new 'bubble' record of 36-9-1 gives an even more clear indication of how impossible the playoffs will be for them this year.
Their current slide is six games long. 0-5-1. They have not won in regulation in over a month now, and have done a tremendous job of coughing up leads at various times of the game. They gave away a three goal lead against Nashville last week, and all but stopped being offensive last night against Calgary, giving them the open door to tie it (Yes, that was captain Jerome Iginla hanging out in front of Mason with the puck, completely undefended) and head to a shootout that lead to even more disappointment. They also only managed one goal on twenty-eight shots, making Kiprusoff appear to be one of the greatest goalies in the league (he's not).
The one real bright spot of this abysmal slide is that people continue to show up for games. Here are the totals from the last five home games including their day of the week (usually weekends are stronger than weekdays)...
Calgary :: 16,985 (Tuesday)
Tampa Bay :: 16,108 (Saturday)
Los Angeles :: 16,090 (Thursday)
Vancouver :: 15,808 (Tuesday)
Boston :: 18,175 **sellout** (Saturday)
That is an average of 16,633 during that stretch, and compared to league averages puts them in the top 2/3 of the NHL on average. Not bad considering the highest they can climb on the attendance chart currently (capacity in other buildings is substantially more) is 15th. It brings me to a couple of conclusions:
1 - The team assumes they have the time to 'let the team sort itself out' without making changes. As much as I want something to be done, and as much as I assume the entirety of the organization wants the team to win, I cannot help but think the current attendance numbers are buying both Scott Arniel and a couple of top six forwards time to figure something out.
2 - Columbus fans are suckers for punishment. Don't take that the wrong way. I am openly impressed that people continue to make the trip to Nationwide to watch them give games away to teams who SHOULD be inferior on paper. I personally haven't seen a game live since the pathetic loss to Chicago (6-3) in mid November, and each time I almost go but back out at the last second only to watch them get throttled again, I find myself less and less upset about the decision. Maybe that makes me a bad fan (the drive is an hour and a half both ways to get there), but then again, maybe I just want a sign from management that they won't tolerate the losing. **In my defense, I attended eight of the first ten home games of the season.. There is only so much an out of towner can take!
3 - This continuous drubbing from various media morons suggesting Columbus isn't a hockey market should probably end soon. Eventually they will start sympathizing with the Columbus fan base (who appear to be awesome) kind of like Tom Reed has been doing, wishing for a team to actually show up and play for an entire year. Tom is absolutely right, in that this fan base deserves a winner. They have proven time and time again that Columbus belongs in the NHL, despite the team on the ice.
I have been hunting for positives in a sea of negativity, however as the losing continues, the likelihood of positivity or optimism has become a bit unrealistic. I am going to hope for a couple wins this week in order to get a reasonable roster review up early next week, but the longer the season goes like this, the less the points mean to the team. Suddenly, losing is a celebration to avoid moving out of the league basement. I think the best we Blue Jackets fans can hope for is a quality trade or a new coach with a new perspective in the coming weeks. While I love this team on paper, they are some kind of mediocre when they hit the ice.
Carry the Flag.