When people think of the Columbus Blue Jackets, they think of mostly negative things. Words such as doormat, punching bag, and bottom feeders are usually what are associated with the Jackets, and for the majority of their history, these words fit right in.
The Jackets’ past has been filled with front office missteps (looking right at you Doug Maclean) and poor player performances year after year. The only outlier thus far has been the lone playoff appearance in 2009, in which they were quickly sent home by the Detroit Red Wings.
Many fans (including me) have made many excuses as to the reasons why the Jackets have not been relevant. “If we just get this one guy, we will be great!”, or “If we just fire so and so, we will make the playoffs.” The harsh truth is, there really isn’t any good reason.
When the Blue Jackets entered the league in 2000, they weren’t the only team to do so. They were joined by the Minnesota Wild. By 2004, the Wild had made the playoffs, and have been a threat to do so from then on. Meanwhile, the Jackets were still looking to find their identity, as their best achievement was not being dead last in their division (a feat they had accomplished once.)
Fast-forward to 2013. The Blue Jackets were expected to dwell in last once again, but surprised everyone but losing out on a playoff berth on a tiebreaker (thanks Scott Howson) to the Minnesota Wild on the last day of the lockout-shortened season. That really put the Jackets on the map, but it also brought a new set of expectations.
Could the Jackets be a contender, and finally challenge for a playoff spot in a full length 82 game season? Can Sergei Bobrovsky follow up his amazing Vezina- winning season with the same level of play that put the Jackets in the hunt to begin with? Will a full season of Marion Gaborik, along with a half season of Nathan Horton, help revive a historically inept offense?
The 2012-2013 season left us with a ton of questions, but it also left us Jackets fans with a lot of optimism. President John Davidson and GM Jarkko Kekalainen can seem to do no wrong. Coach Todd Richards managed to make something out of nothing with the roster he had. The front office is the strongest it has ever been, and that’s music to our ears.
Now, before we start planning our playoff ticket purchases, we should wait for the season to get underway, so that we don’t have another Jeff Carter debacle on our hands.