After seeing the Blue Jackets’ stumble out of the gates to start the season turn into an out of control spiral rivaling a five-year old drawing with a crayon, I thought to myself that I have seen this fish before. I hearken back to the NHL’s return from the lockout and how the season had started for the Penguins and see some similarities in the 2-9-1 start for the Blue Jackets.
After the Penguins won the draft lottery and the right to draft Sidney Crosby, the Penguins decided to spend rather freely after years of running the franchise like a business and kept their salary low and their roster young. Suddenly big dollars were spent bringing in Sergei Gonchar, Ziggy Palffy, John LeClair, and Jocelyn Thibault (Mark Recchi was signed before the lockout occurred). Somewhat similar to the Blue Jackets’ aggressive offseason that seen James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal, and Radek Martinek enter the fold.
High hopes quickly fizzled for the Penguins as before you knew it they were 0-4-5 before getting their first victory of the season. It started with Martin Brodeur and the Devils holding fort on a strong start in the first ten minutes to the season from the Penguins which quickly turned into a 5-1 deficit. Next, then unknown Cam Ward stopped Crosby, Palffy, and Mario Lemieux in the shootout in something few people expected. The Pens home opener was a barn burner that showed the Penguins up 6-4 on the Bruins in the third period to only lose in overtime. OT losses to the Sabres and Flyers and before you can say “Wha ha happen?” the Pens were 0-1-4.
At that point the downtrodden feelings began to take hold as the next three losses were of the obvious variety with yet another OT loss following to the Panthers and now it was an 0-4-5 record. Win number one finally happened against the Thrashers, it wasn’t without some “Here we go again” feelings, down 4-0 in the first 10 mintues the Pens found a way to win 7-4.
Winning 5 of 8 were only a brief respite from the story of that season for the Pens, the bottom soon dropped out again and in rapid succession Palffy retired, Lemieux as well, Eddie Olczyk was fired on December 15th with the Pens having an 8-17-6 record, and long time GM Craig Patrick was not retained at the end of the season.
The similarities are somewhat striking with the Blue Jackets start as they spend quite a bit over the summer attacking their roster weaknesses with aggression and the honestly putrid start to the season that has the rumor mongering of trades, firings, waives, etc permeating most of the discussion in Columbus. Questions about of the future of the coach and GM and their potentially imminent demise are rampant no matter how true the reality may or may not become.
Most of the season is still to go, the small glimmer of at least mediocrity has happened of late with a 2-2 record in the last four games. It is going to take much more than that to save jobs and even have a chance to salvage the season after this start to the season. From seeing a start like this personally back in 2005-2006, what I hope to see from all levels of the Blue Jacket’s franchise is that the drive always is always there to improve and strive to improve on a day to day basis. The countdown to Olczyk’s demise in Pittsburgh was evident when he failed to have anymore idea of what was going wrong. If Arniel or Howson ever gets to the point where he has no more answers and doesn’t know what needs to be done to right the ship, that will be the point when I think the season may not be salvageable and changes may be for the better.
But until then, if the effort and drive mimic what you seen in their wins against the Red Wings and Ducks, the hope for a turnaround will still be there. Onward and upward, this season might not be what the Jacket faithful thought it would be, but doom and gloom isn’t the way to go. Keep a positive outlook and don’t succumb to a bunch of columns and articles from the Dispatch about losing cant continue and changes need to happen a day after a rather convincing win in front of 16000 fans who turned up to see a 1-9-1 team become 2-9-1 team.
Glass half full or glass half empty, the choice is your’s and your’s alone…good luck (Yeah I just used Legends of the Hidden Temple as a positivity tool…Heaven help me)