Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cannon Fodder in Columbus

The natives are restless in Columbus.

Through possible protests to beat writers basically having enough of the team they have been following, the state of the Blue Jackets have never been in more peril in the critical eye as it has been for this season. The criticism is well-needed, but the fact remains that nothing will fix this team, even though suggestions have been put out there.

The main point from everywhere is to get rid of most of the personnel in the organization and start anew, even though it won't create a quick fix and will probably actually make things worse before they are made better. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch and the Puck Rakers blog put out two suggestions, which encompasses the main bickering points of the Blue Jackets fateful.

It's about having more people in the organization -- not just players, but above them, too -- who meet one or (preferably) both of the following two criteria:
1. They're absolutely g-- d--- obsessed with winning hockey games. Not competing. Not playing tough. Winning. It's a shallow way to go through life, perhaps, if your only concern is winning hockey games. And perhaps these individuals are so driven and myopic as to be a bit unnerving (Jonathan Toews). But it's what every winning club has in surplus, and every losing club needs.
2. They have long track records of winning in the NHL, either as a player or a builder. Some of the players in the room have had playoff runs, but a shocking number of them haven't. Ever. Only two of them -- third-line center Sammy Pahlsson and emergency defenseman Brett Lebda -- have their names on the Stanley Cup. The Blue Jackets front office is one of the most inexperienced and unproven in the NHL. There are some very good people, for sure, but compare the Blue Jackets, for instance, to the Blues. Can the Jackets match John Davidson, Doug Armstrong, Larry Pleau, Al MacInnis and Ken Hitchcock?
All well and good and while the point is a great one, but the big issue for me is that whether or not there's anyone who will actually want to take a job in Columbus. That doesn't say that the actual city or market or bad, but it's not one where people who are "hockey people" may not think it's the best place to be, especially since they probably don't have any link to the organization or want to be the guinea pig for this transformation in management. Sure, you can say that Steve Yzerman didn't have a link to the Tampa Bay Lightning to start, but he did start under the guise of Ken Holland in Detroit learning the trade.

We all know the history of the Blue Jackets had one playoff season and actually got off to a solid franchise start with a bunch of Expansion Draftees, like Geoff Sanderson, Tyler Wright, and Kevin Dineen-- which makes you wonder if the Jackets feel bad for not taking a chance on Dineen considering what he's doing in Florida right now with the Panthers. But, like it shows-- there's not many big names that have solid connections to the franchise or have the management skills to take over a team and have a quick turnover into greatness-- which is just happenstance of who they are and maybe where the team is located, always playing second fiddle to the University.

Not only that, but the reports out about the Blue Jackets losing money hand-over-fist and hoping for casino money, the attendance dipping to 80% capacity, and just the team getting worse despite getting bigger names in trades and free doesn't seem like the team is long for the area unless there's a DRASTIC change in the next.....six to ten months. That's not to say the team will fold or move-- but the reality of the situation is that if things don't change quick, it will be a long road to recovery for the Blue Jackets.

It stinks to think that this could be another failure to a NHL team and to Gary Bettman's expansion era regime, but it's the after-thoughts that always seems to get over-analyzed to no end. It's almost as bad as wishing for a team to move out of market to a more prosperous area to a more prosperous owner, but it's something that occasionally needs to be done in hindsight.

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