By Sean Gallagher
[This article was originally published in the Feb. 20 edition of St. Louis Game Time]
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a complete wreck of a hockey team.Â They havenâ€™t made a decision that has paid off since they first decided to stick a hockey team in a city that is completely and totally focused on college football.Â Itâ€™s almost like theyâ€™re trying to show every other team in the league how to not run a franchise.Â
Among the first decisions the Columbus owners and management had to make were what to name the team and what their logo should look like.Â After an exhausting search, they settled on a team name that is someone elseâ€™s team name followed by a coat.Â Seriously?Â The people of Ohio couldnâ€™t come up with a better name than Blue Coats? Itâ€™s not like Silver Pants was already taken.Â
Then again, their favorite team in the state, the college football team, is named the Buckeyes.Â Maybe they canâ€™t do better than Blue Coats.
Then left to design their new logo, they had another great idea. What better way to honor the tradition of mid-Ohio and their jacket-making abilities than to design a logo based on a green bug?Â Genius, I say.Â A bug wearing a blue, Ohio-made coat.Â I bet they sold millions of sweaters with that move.Â
Of course, maybe not, since the team recently decided to phase out hockeyBug and go with a new logo.Â The new logo is a star in the middle of an apparent hurricane. So, to recap, the franchise has now stolen the team name of the existing
The Coat â€˜n Ties may be changing their logo officially, but donâ€™t be surprised if you see Game Time continue to use the hockeyBug as an editorial designation for the team in our pages.Â Itâ€™s just far too embarrassing to let them slide that easily.Â
And yes, this is coming from the franchise that wore trumpets on the shoulders of their uniforms for several years.Â Â
The boys from Columbus have continued their tradition of bad decision making right through their drafting.Â In the seven entry drafts in their existence they have never drafted later than eighth overall.Â
What do they have to show for their poor on-ice performances and high draft positions?Â Not much. In order they have Rostislav Klesla, who was supposed to be a dominating two-way blueliner but who has basically become a mostly invisible blueliner who happens to only have good games against the Blues.Â Pascal Leclaire was to be the franchise goalie who has become the franchise backup goalie.Â Leclaire has kept the bench warm for such dominating goalies as Freddie Brathwaite and Fredrik Norrena, a 32-year-old rookie.
Rick Nash, drafted first overall, has had moments of dominance, but has lately become less of a scoring threat and more of a 20 games on the IR again threat.
In 2003 the Coats took Nikolai Zherdev fourth overall.Â The moody and streaky Zherdev has been mostly a disappointment, especially this season, having tallied only eight goals and 23 points, on pace for 33 this year.
Of the last three high-end picks, only Gilbert Brule is in the NHL, and he has only six goals and 14 points. Derrick Brassard (2006) and Alexandre Picard (2004) have a total of 26 NHL games and zero NHL points between them.Â Â
This is not to say that the youngsters of Columbus canâ€™t someday be great players.Â It is to say, though, they arenâ€™t exactly the same quality as the Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Fleury and Whitney picks that the Pittsburgh Penguins made during those same years.Â
The front office is also to blame for some real head-scratching trades and free agent additions.
Â While expansion teams really have their hands tied on acquiring quality skaters and goalies via trade, the people of Columbus were forced to rally around Ron â€œIâ€™ve heard the joke about my name a million times alreadyâ€ Tugnutt as their top guy in net for two years and mediocre Marc â€œNot Like Penisâ€ Denis in net for five seasons.Â Ug.Â Poor Coat fans.Â
The Coats also made a deal last year to acquire Sergei Fedorov to be their marquee centerman for their top line.Â Too bad they got the 2005 Fedorov instead of 1995 Fedorov.Â Hell, they didnâ€™t even get 2003 Fedorov who posted 69 points over a whole season. Instead, college football town Fedorov has 77 points over the last two seasons and might not even get to 50 this year. The career plus-261 player has been minus-9 since pulling the hockeyBug on over his Lurchesque face.Â
Last season the Formal Attires picked up Bryan Berard and Adam Foote to anchor their defensive core.Â The end result is that Foote, a career plus-109 defensive stud, has gone a whopping minus-34 over the last two seasons and is on the trade block.Â Berard hasnâ€™t fared any better, playing in only 51 games in two seasons and getting pummeled with an unbelievable minus-34 in those games.Â Good luck on the free agent market in the future, management geniuses.Â
This year the Coats are once again in the running for a lottery pick. They canâ€™t win games, their supposed star players look listless and their youthful prospects are not achieving to levels expected of them based on draft position. On top of all that, they hired Ken Hitchcock as their new coach this season, so there has been a dearth of well-stocked buffet tables around town too.
They have had a very loyal fanbase, but how much more can those people take?Â Â
-Sean â€œkick â€˜em when theyâ€™re downâ€ Gallagher