I'd love to do a bunch of bulletpoints about Jaroslav Halak finally getting some run support (welcome, Cardinals fans), Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo becoming the most exciting first pair/second pair blueliners in the league and about how Jason Arnott and T.J. Oshie are both earning new contracts from the Blues with their play so far.
Instead, here is my editor's article from tonight's Game Time paper. It's sure to annoy Blue Jackets fans (but, as one of them told me tonight, "There's only like five of us") but the point I tried to make was taken to heart by the Blues tonight, especially in the third period, when they could have blamed a tough schedule on the result and packed it in.
Here you go:
It seems like every time Columbus appears on the schedule, I can't help but think about how much I pity the fans of that team and then I turn around and endlessly bash the Blue Jackets. Maybe tonight will be different. I'll try my best anyway.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are poo. They are an embarrassing franchise and there's no reason to think that they're figuring out how to become less poo-like. I'm sure that when young men who have worked their whole lives to get drafted are finally selected and it's the Blue Jackets who call their name they are immediately relieved and excited. But then, after they've hugged their mom and dad and the girlfriend they are soon to cheat on and then dump, as they are walking up to the podium they have the thought of, "Hey, wait a minute. Did they say Blue Jackets? I'm going to be a Blue Jacket? Fuuuuuuuuck."
Same goes for the players who get traded there, like Jeff Carter. He's a proven NHL talent. When he got traded to Columbus he had to be like, "Damn. I can't believe I got traded. This is so weird. I have to pack this house up and find a new place and.... Hey, wait a minute. Did he say I'm going to the Blue Jackets? Fuuuuuuuuck."
The only guys who are happy to wind up in Columbus are guys who are worried that they are on their way out of the NHL. "Hey, Columbus sucks, but I'll probably get to play there and it's airplanes and four-star hotels, not buses and the Days Inn in Bumfuck, Iowa." The case in point is former Blues tweener Nikita Nikitin. He was a pressbox regular in St. Louis due to the blueline depth here, but in Columbus he's a top-pairing guy. For him, the opportunity to play and look like a stud is more important than being on a loser team that is on the bullet train to Nowheresville.
Poo ass poo team.
Columbus is so bad and so clearly not going anywhere anytime soon that I actually feel bad for Rick Nash. He's still young at 27 and he's coming into what should his most productive three or four years and he is locked in on this terrible team. He has over 500 NHL points, owns the franchise offensive records in almost every category and will probably end up finishing his career there due to one of those long-term contracts unless he asks to be traded. That means he'll probably finish his NHL career without a championship and probably without any significant playoff numbers (career regular season games played: 624 / career playoff games played: 4). He'll end his career and be a guy who never gets Hall of Fame consideration and will instead be looked at as an immense talent that was wasted.
Nice job, Columbus.
Columbus is so bad that Ken Hitchcock's reputation has retroactively gone up for struggling there. Before being tapped to coach the Blues, his term in Columbus looked like it might be the end of the line for him. He went from NHL mastermind in Dallas to NHL stud in Philadelphia to NHL coaching relic in Columbus. The team couldn't get into the playoffs consistently, and when they did, they were quickly escorted back out. The buzz about Hitchcock was that he was a pre-lockout coach and couldn't succeed in the NHL now. He was a trap guy. A clutch and grab guy. This is the New NHL TM and he didn't get it anymore.
Since coming to St. Louis and implementing an up-tempo system and using talented players to the best of their ability, he has shown that he is a New NHL guy. He can coach in this league. He can put players in the right places in order for them to succeed.
The retroactive conclusion, of course, is that Hitchcock was a good coach in Columbus, too. It's just that Columbus is poo and so are those players. The reason they sucked and couldn't make the playoffs wasn't because Hitchcock couldn't get it done, it was because the players sucked and couldn't get it done.
Just looking at Hitchcock's first 18 games with the Blues everyone is pouring accolades onto him. Hitch knows how to motivate his players. Hitch knows how to get the most out of the players he has at his disposal. The Cock can outsmart other teams. The Cock makes his players believe. These were all the same things said about him in Dallas and in Philadelphia.
But not in Columbus. Because Columbus is a crap franchise and the players they have there are not the right guys. If I owned that team I'd be ready to scrap the whole thing. And yet, as competitive teams all around the NHL dump their underperforming coaches and general managers start feeling the heat, nothing changes in Columbus. But hey, at least they're on the way to yet another lottery pick in the NHL draft, which they will likely screw up too.
In their 12 drafts, the BJs have picked in the top 10 nine times. It would be 10 of 12, but they traded their first rounder last year. Of those nine high-end players, only one, Nash, has made any kind of impact on the NHL. Their list of blown tires is embarrassing: Rusty Klesla, Pascal Leclaire, Nikolai Zherdev, Alexandre Picard, Gilbert Brule, Derick Brassard and Nikta Filatov. Jakub Voracek is at least hoping to turn things around in Philadelphia and Ryan Johansen is hoping that he can get something done this year as a rookie.
And all that said, the Blues, who have had struggles of their own the last few years, do not consistently dominate this flotsam and jetsam of a hockey team. In the only meeting this year the Blues eeked out a 2-1 win. Last season they won four of six, but two of those wins were in overtime and they got smoked 8-1 and 5-2 in the two losses. We all feel like the Blues are going in the right direction and that they can beat any of the good teams in the league. But if they are really going to make this year different than the recent past, they need to figure out how to not only beat the good teams, but to handle these crappy teams, too.
The Blues lost an important point last night in a game they dominated against a weaker team. Tonight is a must-win. Not because of the two important points available, but because they cannot allow themselves to be taken out by teams that are poo. And the Blue Jackets are poo, of that I am sure.
-Sean "but I did think that bug logo was a good idea" Gallagher