If you can’t give the fans wins, give them sixty minutes.
Watch any sports movie, teen sitcom that includes sports, or listen to countless motivational speeches by a coach. The resounding theme is about team effort. It’s not about the talent, it’s not about the individuals, it’s about the team. “We can win if we work as a team.” “We can overcome any obstacle if we work together.”
The list of quotes is endless.
Fans should know by now that this team is a work in progress. Three first round picks this coming summer is not what a contender has waiting for them after the post season. Losing their “franchise” forward to trade isn’t something a Cup favourite has to concern themselves with months before the season was supposed to begin.
But the Blue Jackets have something they have not had in a long time: a clear vision of the future. Built on defensive prowess with depth to spare in Springfield, we are looking at what will likely be “the best defense this team has ever seen” for each of the next 5-10 seasons. The exciting moment when we get to realize that the defense is only going to get better is just a couple of weeks away.
Add to that the fact that the organization has a new crop of top tier goaltenders slowly growing as players, and one that might just have what it takes sooner rather than later. We will get a clear picture on whether Steve Mason or Sergei Bobrovsky (it is truly addictive.. BOB..) can be ‘the guy’ here as these prospects develop. Early predictions suggest that Bob can vault Mason, but that is for another day.
Yes, the offense needs work. In many opinions, a LOT of work. Columbus does not have a legitimate, top tier scorer. What they do have however, is a lot of mid range talent. They have that second and third line type of player who works hard every night pushing the puck forward optimistically. The type of forward that can help to produce a Cinderella story, or get the headlines going about the hard working Columbus Blue Jackets pressing for a late playoff spot.
They also have a fair number of quality young players turning heads. Atkinson, Johansen, and Jenner all bring positive question marks to the middle of the potential Blue Jackets roster. Add to that list a couple wildcards like JAM and Calvert fighting for a roster spot, and the fans suddenly get to enjoy watching players earn their place.
It takes sixty minutes. Something we as fans have not enjoyed too many times over the last couple of seasons, as talent replaced heart. It takes a full team of players working hard every minute of every game to take an inch rather than give it up. It takes a group of players who believe they need to earn something rather than knowing they have it.
On another positive note, we can look forward to new leadership. Vinny is going to make that “C” hard to take this year. I believe in his mentality towards the game, and am certain he will push the roster harder than our former captain did (if he did at all). What intrigues me, is who will be pushing him for that captaincy. This roster has some great leadership in guys like Johnson and Umberger, although I do personally hope to see RJ take this season to focus on his own game. His struggles last year were visible despite a solid late season charge.
This optimism should be welcomed by fans, but I encourage everyone to look for themselves beyond the standings this year. Consider this team versus the teams we have been forced to watch for the last few seasons and I believe you will find some comfort in the results. They are laying the groundwork for a successful franchise in five to ten years, not just looking at THIS year. They have excellent hockey minds supporting someone who I still believe is a very capable General Manager, and a coach who seemed to do the right things in the right way during his brief stint with the team last year.
Stay positive, and Carry the Flag. I’m ready to watch sixty minutes of good, hard, feisty hockey. Every game. Let that be enough this year, and our Blue Jackets might just surprise us.