Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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It’s amazing what can happen in a couple of years. Two years ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were in an awful rut, stuck with an over paid and unmotivated star player and a former rookie of the year goalie who could no longer make a save under pressure (okay, maybe that’s a little exaggerated…but not by much). A culture of being a perennial loser had gripped this team and front office, blinding them from the vision of a realistic way out of their situation. Two years ago, the Jackets had no organizational depth and no real idea on how to go about getting some.
Then suddenly Scott Howson was out, John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen (yes, I looked that spelling up) were in, and things began to change rapidly. In this relatively short time, this team has begun to look very different.
Gone are the days of having no organizational depth. The Blue Jackets’ farm system is fully stocked and their three first round draft picks can comfortably develop in the minors. Two years ago, many members of the current roster were stuck in the minor leagues, buried on the depth chart by a stagnant big club. This group of players learned to play together and win together, a culture that they brought with them when they came to Columbus. How is that not organizational depth? Well, simple, nobody thought these guys could get it done at the next level.
These players were the ones who weren’t rushed up too early by a team desperate to climb out of last place. It wasn’t until players like Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, and Steve Mason were gone that these players were able to step out from under the loser shadow and prove something. Davidson and Kekalainen recognized this talent early on and began to add pieces to enhance the winning culture (see Sergei Bobrovsky, Marian Gaborik, and most recently NATHAN HORTON!).
Last year, the Blue Jackets proved something. They proved that the days of being the worst team in hockey are over. They proved that even if you were going to beat them, you were going to have to earn it. They proved that making the playoffs is not an unreasonable demand. They acknowledged that missing the playoffs last season was unacceptable. Finally, this Blue Jackets team seems to be as hungry for a Stanley Cup as the Blue Jackets fans!
In the last few weeks, the Blue Jackets have confirmed and advanced the progress that was made last year, leaving a typically skeptical fan base in a strangely giddy state.
To put it simply, being a Blue Jackets fan has never felt like this, and for once…I can’t wait for hockey season to start!