The Blue Jackets season ended Monday night in front of a packed house of appreciative fans. We here at tUB wanted to take a few days to reflect on the season as a whole and now we come together to share our thoughts on what was, perhaps, the greatest season in Blue Jacket history. Here’s what our team had to say…
Given a few days for the smoke to clear and dust to settle from the Jackets’ elimination from the playoffs, I feel that I can declare the 2013-2014 season as a definite step forward in the long-term success of this franchise. While there was plenty to like about many of the veterans’ play this past season, by and large it was the youngest of the group who stepped up this season and displayed some of the best leadership. The likes of Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, David Savard and Matt Calvert assumed ownership of the team and didn’t simply sit shotgun in the machine that the veterans were steering. With such a young core, that shows promise of the work ethic of this team for years to come.
That said, I’d certainly feel a lot more comfortable with one more seasoned (not old, sorry Vinny) veteran in the machine as well. I’m curious/optimistic what effect a healthy Nathan Horton with a full camp under his belt will have on this squad. I also think that Bob needs someone breathing down his neck legitimately challenging him to be his best. We all know that Bob would start 82 games if given the opportunity and it may just be healthy for him to hear once or twice that he hasn’t earned a start for one evening. For now though, it’s time to enjoy some playoff hockey and look forward to the draft. Perhaps JD and Jarmo will make a move then that could surprise us all.
Most points in franchise history. Most goals scored in franchise history. Least goals allowed in franchise history. Most wins. The first season with a positive goal differential. That’s a damn good regular season, especially for a team so young. Most of the records they broke this year were from the 2008-09 team. But there are stark contrasts between those two squads. This one is younger, less reliant on individual players, not playing an unsustainable style, not facing any key UFA decisions, and has help on the way in last year’s three first round picks. At the start of the year I don’t think anyone rationally expected the Jackets to make much noise in the playoffs. I had them pegged for the edge of the playoffs. Like I said, they are young. This season is a step, and it ended up being a much bigger step than I counted on. That series against Pittsburgh was so much more than the appearance made by the ’08-09 team. This really feels like something to build upon. Ryan Johansen, Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner, David Savard, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Dalton Prout are all young enough that we can expect some natural improvements in their game. Nathan Horton should be healthier next year, considering how much downtime he’s had over the last year. There is a lot to look forward to.
Looking back, I will miss watching this particular iteration of the Jackets. I think the third period of game six sums the team up nicely. There was no quit in this team, and there sure was a lot of fight. This team wasn’t as “talented” as many of their opponents, but they found a way to win anyway. I put talented in quotes there for a reason. Because this team was extremely talented, just maybe not in the way we usually use that word regarding hockey players. The 2008-09 Jackets were a not particularly talented team that played a system that lowers the margins between the teams, and hopes to squeak out close wins. That is what Hitchcock hockey is. This team did not play that way, but they played a style that perfectly complemented what they are talented at. They are good on the boards, in the corners, and in front of the net. They have a set of defensemen with strong puck skills. Todd Richards and his staff put together a system to perfectly complement those strengths. Say what you will about Richards lineup decisions and in-game management, he did a near perfect job at getting the most out of his lineup in a sustainable way. This was a team that took the game to their opponent. With Jarmo and JD in place, and Richards and staff looking to be locked up long term, I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Nor would I want it to.
When I look back on this season, it’s a still a little hard to feel happy about the Blue Jackets final stop at in first round. Over time though, the mere “satisfied” feeling will undoubtedly wash into a beautiful quilt of happiness and good feelings. The Blue Jackets did a lot of things a growing franchise wants to do; they made the playoffs first and foremost and even won a few playoff games. We’ve seen a ton of things develop: the fan base, the franchise’s culture and most importantly players like Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray and Ryan Johansen sprouting their roots and giving us fans more than enough proof to be hopeful for the future.
As a fan, it’s been a very rewarding experience as well seeing the team go from the bumbling buffoons of yesteryear to the not-quite-consistent-but-still-respectably-decent squad that won more than half of their games this year. The “brick-by-brick” mantra doesn’t feel like lip service, and I truly believe that the club has got plenty more success ahead of it with Jarmo and JD at the helm. At the beginning of this season, I had told my friends with a bit of reserve that I believed the Blue Jackets would qualify for the Stanley Cup. Now there’s not just a confidence that the CBJ will do it again next year.
There’s an expectation.
This season was so different from any season before it. Perhaps it was the manner in which last season ended. Although, the team came up short of making the playoffs, the fans were literally sitting on the edge of their seats after the last regular season game (in the arena no less) watching to see if the team would make it. Even though they came up a point short, it was thrilling. There was hope. There was a reason to look forward.
This year, the team and the fan base picked up right where they left off and took things to new levels. The team played as well or better than any Blue Jackets team prior. But what stands out to me even more about this season, and what I will remember most about it, is the way in which the city and fan base embraced this team. The attendance figures may suggest that no such thing happened, but anyone who attended a game after the Olympic break, and particularly during the playoffs, is not likely to forget the experience. From the #CBJ chant that almost raised the roof off of Nationwide after the final horn had sounded and the season was over, to the hugs and high fives that fans exchanged on the way out of the arena, to the heartfelt tributes that fans posted on social media in the days after, it became clear. This is not the “same old Jackets.” And this is not same old Jackets fan base.
Many bricks were put in place this season. This thing is starting to take shape. And it looks solid!
As the resident prospect guru I’m focusing on the young guys this year. Ryan Johansen proved that “you don’t mess with the Johan” leading the team in scoring and goals and hopefully figuring out what it take to be a pro after being benched in the AHL Playoffs last year. Johansen was the Jackets first 30/30 man not named Rick Nash since Geoff Sanderson in 2002-03. Johansen should continue to improve becoming the team’s go to offensive weapon for years to come.
David Savard last year was publicly called out by JD and in one game looked like he deserved to be playing at intermission with the mites not in the NHL. But over the summer he got it together and became one of the Jackets top four defenseman – even playing with Jack Johnson on the team’s top pair this season.
Now for the rookies. Jarmo said in his press conference that Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner weren’t given anything regardless of what they had done last season (Jenner) or draft status (Murray). When Boone was drafted I was told Boone was a kid that would go through a wall for his team and after this season and the playoffs I think most would agree with this statement. Boone was a physical presence and almost set a new rookie goal scoring record missing it by just one.
Ryan Murray – what can you say? He was as advertised and even helped some people get to their happy place watching him skate/play defense. Now some may worry about Murray’s injuries but i’m not as I think they’re just normal defenseman bumps and bruises plus the kid played with a broken foot. Some think that one of these two could be the Jackets’ captain which wouldn’t shock me especially Boone I’ve been hearing he’s captain material since he was drafted.
So there you have it, Jackets fans. Nice to see there’s consistency on the ice and in how people are looking at this team. Stay tuned because the off-season doesn’t exist at tUB. We’ll go through our annual tUB Awards, have prospect news, and some really good stuff looking back statistically as well as looking forward. Also…there’s this little thing called Cannonfest….
Carry the Flag!