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Can we get a little perspective, here?

March 29, 2007

The Blue Jackets won their fourth game in a row on Tuesday, shortly after being officially eliminated from playoff contention.  I should have been able to see the next part coming, but I’ll confess that I was looking the other way when it hit me.  And when it did, I had to smile a little.

Here is a paraphrased sample of the comments I’ve heard on the radio call-in shows the last few days:

  • “Here go the Blue Jackets on one of their patented ‘the season doesn’t matter anymore so we’re going to start winning’ streaks.”  Or…
  • “Finally, the team is playing very well.  Where was this team in October?  Why can’t the play like this every night?”

There are a few things that this line of thinking compels me to address.  I’ll do so in the super-unfashionable bullet point style.

  • First things first.  Let’s take a look at the opponents in the last four games.  Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis (x2).  Counting overtime losses and shootout losses as pure losing efforts, this give the three opposing teams a combined win percentage of 45.6%.  And that’s with the Red Wings in at 60.5%.  I’d argue that it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise that they won at least three of the four games.  Chicago and St. Louis are teams (at this point in the season) that any team in the NHL should have a reasonable chance of defeating.
  • Next item: we played the Blues twice in that stretch.  This is a team that had two of their top players (Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuck) shipped at the trade deadline.  And the TV announcers couldn’t stop telling us how their power play has been so ineffective lately (currently 4 goals in 62 opportunities in March for a stellar 6.5% conversion rate).  Also, they were putting Jason Bacashihua and Curtis Sanford in net (both relatively inexperienced even compared to Norrena).  Let’s not get too excited beating up on these guys, it’s what you should expect.
  • Is anybody really comparing the March Blue Jackets to those that were playing in October and November?  As I see it, the cast is mostly unchanged save for one minor detail: the coach.  Simply put, this is a different team with Hitchcock behind the bench than it was when Gallant was there.  There are days where I don’t believe a coach should make that much of a difference with professional athletes, but I won’t say it doesn’t.  Hitch is a proven winner over the course of his career (minor blips this season notwithstanding), and it’s evident to many that the team Columbus is icing at this moment is very different from that which started the season.

My point in all this?  I’m not sure, but maybe something like “as fans it’s best to remain even keeled.”  Don’t get too high or low.  Relish the opportunity to see professional hockey in your town.  Or maybe it’s “think about what you’re complaining about or praising before you find yourself on the radio sounding like a doofus.”  Take your pick.

And to all those who think that the Jackets would be better off losing to better their draft position, I personally think that this is a terrible thing to consider under almost any circumstance.  Winning is why you play.  Whether you’re in the playoff race or not, you should play to win.  I’m not a world-class anything, but I was raised to know that any time you have an opportunity to win (fairly) in sports, you do so.  Anyone who gives up once their team is “out of it”, should be forced to forfeit any salary they are paid for those “lost” games.  Of course I realize this would never happen, I’m (mostly) joking.  But I will stand strong to the day I keel over on this issue.  Winning is all that matters.  Not draft picks, Rocket Richard Trophies, save percentages, or anything else.  Just win, baby.

Just ask the season ticket holders who are having trouble deciding what to do next season.  I’d guess that this little winning streak has helped one or two people make up their mind.  Does anyone think that if the Jackets lost most of their games after being eliminated that this would endear the team to their fans?

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

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6 comments

  1. One other notable thing has changed between the October team (not playing well) and the March team (playing well)….a major minute muncher defenseman is now sidelined


  2. You’re right on to put this into perspective. This team has been up and down (but mostly down) this season, and even this late winning streak doesn’t prove anything. Getting a new coach isn’t an instantaneous change. I think we all agree that the team is better off with Hitch than with Gallant, but we’re not going to see a tremendous change in the W-L record until Hitch has plenty of time to get the players working under his system. He hasn’t had the benefit of the offseason to work with these guys, and he picked up a team that was already down many many games only a couple months into the season. Progress is slow, but it is coming.

    And these last few games that they’ve won, Chicago, St Louis x2 and barely eeking a win out of Detroit don’t demonstrate that the Jackets are ready for the playoffs. Of course I’m very pleased to see them win, but I’m not ready to get overly excited until I see a win against Anaheim (tonight) or Detroit (Sunday). Then we can talk about major developments. For now, it’s just one sub-par team defeating another sub-par team. One team has to win, right?

    And I agree completely about ‘tanking’ for a better draft pick. Doing that would be a waste- the jackets have had decent picks the last five years and they’re still not winning games. I don’t think a top draft pick (barring a Crosby or an Ovechkin) could really turn this team around anyhow. Change for the Jackets is going to need to primarily come from within, and perhaps from a few key offseason pickups. We’ll see.


  3. PT – Completely in agreement, here. Glad you brought that up.

    Tyler – I liked the win against Detroit, I thought the team played a very good game against a team that got a little surprised (for the second game in a row). But you’re right, until the team starts to regularly beat the good teams I’m not going to get too excited. Wins all count the same in the standings, but everybody knows a win against Anaheim/Detroit/Nashville is more valuable intangibly than one against the Blues.

    Thanks for stopping by, folks!


  4. While I agree beating Chicago and St. Louis (twice) is not a major achievement, remember that it wasn’t too long ago, even under Hitch, that the Jackets would struggle against these teams. One night they would play tough and beat Ananheim or Dallas and then turn around and lose to the Kings or the Coyotes. I think what has impressed over these last 4 wins has been how the team hsa thoroughly out-played and out-hustled these teams of late. The game with Anaheim tonight will be a good test and maybe even a barometer of what’s to come.


  5. I’m not sure “people”, specifically those calling into 1460, are saying anything other than this:

    “This has happened before. It’s happening again. New coach or not, we’ve seen it. Saw it with McLean, saw it with Galant, seeing it with Hitchcock.”

    Sure, it makes sense to sit down and calmly and rationally evaluate the current situation on its’ own. But how can we expect those radio callers, or Columbus public in general, to do that?

    For Pete’s Sake EOB, I have heard Todd Boeckman’s name this week on the radio almost as much as Greg Oden. We debated the merits of tOSU playing MAC schools vs. Mid-range Big 6 conference teams out of conference, during the week of the Final Four!!

    Perspective is not something Columbusites pride themselves on. Unless the burgeoning Hockey community is composed of different folk. I would guess not, present blogger site not included.

    By the way, did you hear how Boeckman did at practice today??


  6. Jeff – I agree, but St. Louis (at the least) is a different team than when we previously played them. Chicago is probably right about where they’ve been most of the year, and I think Detroit is playing very well. The Jackets did out-work all those teams (maybe with the exception of the third period in Detroit?), and that was a pleasure to watch.

    NOB – Do you listen to Shark’s show on 103.9FM as well (or was that you that called in)? They basically did say that, but as you know personally I leave things out to help make my point.

    Seriously though, to the guys who call in to those shows (mostly tOSU fans) it probably doesn’t look any different than year’s past. To me, it does. I like the direction that Hitchcock is taking the team, and think that next year could be (emphasis on could) exciting. Basically, I’m optimistic when it suits me, and pessimistic (I like to think of it at realistic) when it suits me.

    I’ve been tempted to call in a few times, but I think maybe the output of my misguided opinions should be safely relegated to this site.

    Thanks to both of you for stopping by. Good thoughts, I appreciate it as always. Come back soon.

    (And how did Boeckman look today?)



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