In general, the Blue Jackets have not impressed me much in the last few weeks. They’ve had games where they look good (most recent win against Colorado), and games where they look very nearly bad (the ineffective outing to Bahston). Somebody asked me the other day, “how are the Jackets doing?” I thought for a half second, and gave the following assessment: If you look at the trend over the last few weeks, things are not good. They can’t string wins together and nobody but Rick Nash looks remotely dangerous. But if you look at what I expected before the season, I’d say they’re slightly ahead of where I anticipated.
Life, especially related to sports, is a “what have you done for me lately” thing. And the Jackets haven’t done much for anyone but the opposition goalie’s save percentage lately. If you had told me on October 1st that the team would be over .500 (of available points) on December 18th, I’d be happy with that. I realized last week that I never did put up my predictions for the 2007-08 season, but I can tell you in all honesty that I would have placed the Jackets somewhere in the 9 to 11 spot in the West. We’re currently in the 11th spot.
Continuing the same line, it’s interesting to see the reaction of people who ostensibly like hockey (and the Blue Jackets) as they are wiggling their way through this past inconsistent month plus. I have to wonder what people would be thinking if this team had been bad right out of the gate. As it stands, the team has slid back to mediocrity from unprecedented dizzying heights, and at least the masses that are comfortable committing their anonymous thoughts to the internet are pissed.
The guys over at the Dispatch have made a good show of joining the “blog revolution”, and they are putting up good bits of information at least once a day. It’s nice to have their information provided to us, no doubt. What is truly priceless, however, are some of the golden comments that can be mined from the readers.
My favorite so far (edited for spelling):
This is the worst expansion team in the history of professional sport….
I think it’s a bit early to be giving out awards like that, but let’s consider a few alternatives (and I’m not saying any of these teams mentioned would be the worst in their particular sport, just making the point that there is some “competition” out there):
- Atlanta Thrashers. One complaint CBJ fans have is “no playoffs”. The Thrashers didn’t make the playoffs until their seventh season (which the Jackets are currently playing), and then suffered a first round exit. Pure winning percentage (PWP) after six seasons (wins divided by total games): 32.7%
- Washington Capitals. First playoff run came in season nine. PWP after six seasons: 23.1%
- Ottawa Senators. Actually had a playoff run in season five, but still only managed a PWP after six seasons of 25.1%.
- Alright, enough hockey. Toronto Raptors. First playoff run came in season five. PWP after six seasons: 39.6% (No pesky ties or OTL’s to fudge my calculations here)
- Memphis Grizzlies. First playoff run came in season nine. PWP after six seasons: 22% (wow!)
- Seattle Seahawks. First playoff run came in season eight. PWP after six seasons: 36.1%
- Cleveland Browns (yes, I cheer for losers!) First playoff run (for the “new” Browns) came in season four (spoiled brats!). PWP after six seasons: 31.2%
- New Orleans Saints (this is going to be awesome!) First playoff run came in… wait for it (cause their fans had to)… season twenty one! PWP after six seasons: 23.8%
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers. First playoff run in season four (despite only winning two of the first twenty eight games in franchise history). PWP after six seasons: 33.7%
- (Almost done) Seattle Mariners. First playoff run in season nineteen (guess the weather isn’t the only thing depressing in Seattle). PWP after six seasons: 39.9%
- Tampa Bay Rays. First playoff run… still waiting. PWP after six seasons: 39.2%
- Texas Rangers (formerly the Washington Senators). First playoff run in season thirty four! PWP after six seasons: 39.2%
- And lastly, “Your Columbus Bluuuuuue Jackets!” Still waiting on that first playoff run. PWP after six seasons: 35%.
So what’s the point of this little exercise? First and foremost, it’s that if you make stupid comments that are obviously grossly exaggerated, somebody you don’t know and probably don’t read will berate you with loads of evidence to the contrary. Secondly, even in the modern age of instant gratification, we don’t have it all that bad.
For years, people complained because Columbus didn’t have a major sport franchise in town. Now maybe hockey isn’t your bag, but I’m guessing if that’s the case you’re probably not here and not over at Puck Rakers making boasts about the worst expansion team ever. Now, we have a major league club in town, and people are complaining because things aren’t happening NOW NOW NOW! I sometimes wonder if people won’t be happy until we get a franchise from the NFL (not going to happen with two teams in state already), MLB (see previous note), or NBA (I don’t see this happening with the Cavs right up the road, not to say there haven’t been rumblings in the past on this topic).
It takes time to build a winner, folks. Understand that. People keep saying, we need to get rid of X, Y, and Z player and get some real talent in the door. In the long run, that’s true. But that doesn’t help the situation today. We’re more or less stuck with the players we have right now. I guess if the proverbial “you” were GM, you could release Shelley, Westcott, Brule, Foote, Fedorov, or whomever is the whipping boy of the moment, if you so desired. But then, o’ personnel sage, then what are you going to do?
- Bring up minor league talent? You think we’re getting beat now? Try this and see how you like it.
- Trade for better players? You have to give to get, certain one-sided trades in the past to the contrary. Nobody is going to just hand us the keys to the Lecavalier Ferrari, you’ve got to pay for it. Simply put, we don’t have the human capital to do this. And furthermore, big trades almost never happen during the season. Actually, most player movement for the All-Star types occurs with UFA signings. So calm down, Sparky. Do you really think somebody is going to do a 4, 5, 6 or more for 1 deal? And as it’s been noted, do we even have that many guys that would help those teams?
- Spend more money? On what? What’s left? Seriously, tell me? A smart GM, which I’m willing to give Scott Howson another couple seasons before I say he is or isn’t, spends money on players who are worth it. Those claiming we should go out and spend money to bring in talent right now are borderline delusional. There is no unsigned talent out there that would immediately improve the Jackets chances of the playoffs.
We’ve been told all along that due to previously awarded contracts, this would mostly be a season to figure things out, improve from last year, and then when we can renegotiate/release the Fedorov and Foote contracts we’ll look at bringing in higher priced talent. A sampling of the under-30 crowd expected to be available in the UFA market next summer (list more of notable names rather than any one hockey metric): Marion Hossa, Mike Comrie, JP Dumont, Barret Jackman, Sean Avery (ha!), Ryan Malone, Kristian Huselius, Bryan Berard (kidding!). So maybe it’s not the names of last year with Drury, Gomez, Briere, etc., but there are guys out there who could make the CBJ a better team.
Patience is a virtue, as I’m sure any fan of the New Orleans Saints or Texas Rangers will tell you.
Also, if you haven’t taken the unscientific attendance survey we’re doing, head on over and fill it out. 30 seconds… tops.
Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.