Welcome to the Columbus Blue Jackets 2.0.
Some might argue that it is "Version 11"… and some might wonder why were even using computer terms here.
But the fact is... it is appropriate because the Blue Jackets officially begin their second decade of existence in the NHL. And, since the Jackets theoretically have the top-line center and puck-moving defenseman they have coveted for the entire first decade... I think we can safely say this is finally the upgrade the faithful have been waiting for.
One way to think about this past offseason is that of an exorcism. A tad dramatic, yes. However, the idea of the guys at the top of the organization doing a top-to-bottom audit of the front office and the entire team, just has that certain tone of... finality.
The old guard of (not so much failure, but)... I'll call it "unsuccess," is gone. And I don't mean to characterize Doug MacLean as the "demon" being exorcised, but I guess I sort of am.
Old head of scouting... gone. The wayward status of part-time goaltending coaches... gone. Attitude of "status quo and let's see what we can do"... gone.
This is an upgrade... I think that even includes General Manager Scott Howson, who took this summer and made some bets... put some money out there, and for better or worse, he has definitively put his mark on this team.
That alone is in stark contrast to the Scott Howson who hired Scott Arniel and then stayed largely quiet... on the notion that the CBJ could make the Playoffs with essentially the same personnel. As is, the team got off to a really good start. Then, similar to the previous season, December and January threatened disaster for the CBJ. However, in the tight Western Conference, the Jackets managed to still find themselves in contention at the Trade Deadline. Sadly, even after moves that were designed to jumpstart the team, the CBJ faded down the stretch.
Enter: Scott Howson 2.0.
First, the bold gambit in trading to get Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers. Then another, getting James Wisniewski from the Montréal Canadiens just before the free agency deadline, and then finishing the job by getting him signed before noon on July 1.
Then came the moves to get help for Springfield, and the moves to lock in core guys like Clitsome, Tyutin and Umberger for the long term. Now we see some prospects coming up in the offseason and emerging in the preseason... and ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a good-looking hockey team.
How good? We'll find out beginning tonight.
Sure, tonight's game against the Nashville Predators and tomorrow's against the Minnesota Wild are only two games out of an 82-game slate. However, needless to say, after yet another long, nearly 6-month off-season... fans expect to see something spectacular coming out of the gate.
It's only natural. We are hockey fans.
Theoretically, the Blue Jackets now have all the pieces in place. Only in April will we know if it's all enough to take the next step into the postseason.
The team has already taken a couple of hits, with Mark Dekanich's ankle sprain and Wisniewski's suspension... but these events are irrelevant.
Sure, it sucks to not have the entire team ready to go, but no excuses. Someone ahead of you goes down, you pull together and get the job done. These first few weeks are a test of character. Teams face adversity all the time... you suck it up and play hockey.
Tonight is the night we've been waiting for in Columbus.
Not to abuse the phrase that has permeated our consciousness since CannonFest, but this is the Jackets' Call to Arms (and if you're not clicking on this link and watching Skraut's video at least once today, you're not yet ready for this season).
Strap in, and keep your limbs inside the car at all times... unless you're standing up and screaming and waving your hands in the air like a fool. Don't worry... it's encouraged.
The ride begins tonight. See you at Nationwide.
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