Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Conundrums and Confusion in Columbus

There was so much promise heading into the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history, extending their franchise player to an eight-year contract in the summer, and finding a goalie that looked to be good enough to finally solve their inconsistency between the pipes.

Amazing what a couple of months can do.

After being routed by the Los Angeles Kings, in which they lost Rick Nash to the dreaded "lower body injury," it seems that the Jackets are back to their old ways. They've already been through one coach this year, with Ken Hitchcock being tossed to the wayside; but they seemed to claw back some, only to falter more. They are currently on a five game skid and have mostly been beaten due to the opponents coming back to get the win. There has been little turnover from the team last season, which could tell you that they were playing out of their heads last season or the lack of movement while other teams got better is the cause of their downfall.

Is there a reason why the Jackets haven't loosened the purse-strings and actually trying to attract some name players to the team in order to build it up to the year-in, year-out contender they want to become. There's a lot of draw for forwards, as they would probably be playing alongside of Rick Nash, while defensemen will probably be the top guys out there. The plight of the small-market team will probably continue, but you'd want to hope that a team like this could garner some bigger free-agent attention than what they've been getting. That isn't to say, however, you won't have some duds (see Foote, Adam); but there's enough money for the Jackets to try and lure some bigger profile player to their team.

Another problem that should be monitored is the play of Steve Mason. While you could chalk it up to a sophomore slump, the fact his GAA is up almost a goal per game from last year (3.16 from 2.29); it could show to be more than just a regular slump. You hope Mason isn't in the same realm of Blaine Lacher and/or Jim Carey, but unless he can show some improvement next season; it could be that way. His total of 61 games, 33 wins, and 10 shutouts last season show that it may have been a case of a new goalie not being able to be figured out, but if it's a small change in style; that needs to be addressed for next season.

Then you look at Rick Nash, and while he wants to be loyal to the team that gave him a fine career; you have to wonder if he's regretting his decision to an extension, especially considering the team hasn't done much to give him any kind of support. While the addition of Kristian Huselius does something to add secondary scoring-- but when you don't have much for primary scoring outside of Nash, there's not really a secondary scoring tag there-- is it??

Whatever happens next with the Blue Jackets, fans better hope this is just a hiccup and not something that will be a trend anymore. They had all the momentum, even with being swept by the eventual Western Champs, but seemed to lose it in the three month span between the end of the season and start of camp. They got rid of the coach and it still didn't get better. So where do you place the blame next-- the players or the GM?? My bets on the latter. It'd be wise for Scott Howson to actually start getting a winning group together or else he could be next. As for the team, they should realize they may not be getting help from their management and learn how to grind it out together and play a "us against the world" gimmick in order to get their mojo back they had in '08-'09.

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