Thursday, April 25, 2013

Columbus Blue Jackets: Turning the Corner

As the 2013 NHL season is coming down to the end, I think that Blue Jackets fan should be happy with the direction that the team is headed.  Granted this season did not start as well as planned but with some firings and a surprise trade, the Blue Jackets found themselves on the doorstep of the playoffs.  The playoffs have not been on the topic of conservation with the Blue Jackets in some time.  It has been a welcome topic in this region, not a traditional hockey city, but a city none the less ready to support their team.  As, the team moves to the Eastern Conference, the future has to be looking very bright for the Blue Jackets.

One of the most important decisions of the season was made off the ice by Davidson and that was the firing of Scott Howson.  While I am sure that Howson is a great guy, the direction of the team was not going according to plan.  A change needed to be made and Davidson brought in Kekalainen as the new GM.  They did not waste much time making moves before the trade deadline, and landing Gaborik from the New York Rangers.  It was a surprise move but it was greatly appreciated by Blue Jackets fans, finally getting a 1st line winger since the departure of Rick Nash.

Gaborik celebrates a goal. 
For most fans, this does not seem like a great deal for the Blue Jackets.  It saw the departure of fan favorites Dorsett and Brassard.  For others, like myself, this trade was one hell of a steal.  Gaborik, a 40 goal per year scorer for 2nd and 3rd line players.  You cannot ask for more.  The New York Rangers who were more then happy to get Gaborik out after run-ins with the coaching staff; led to limited ice time for Gaborik.  Gaborik will be an important part of the Columbus Blue Jackets moving forward.

One of Gaborik's former mates in New York has had a huge impact on the Blue Jackets and that is Anisimov.  Although limited by a series of injuries this year, we have seen great play from the winger.  Anisimov, before the Gaborik trade, was one of the only Jackets that could create opportunities for himself.  He would come down the ice 1 on 1 or 1 on 2, and still generate shots and opportunities that made Jackets fans remember about the skills of Rick Nash.  As long as Anisimov can stay healthy he will be a big part of the 2014 campaign.

Bobrovsky flashin' the pad.
Another huge part of the Blue Jackets new found success and ability to turn the corner this season has been the play of goalie Bobrovsky.  The term for a goalie playing well is that he is standing on his head, that even might be an understatement here.  Bob shared time with Mason until it was clear that this was Bob's team, and Mason was sent away at the trade deadline.  He has played better and done more then any Jackets fan could ask this season.  Being goalie for the Blue Jackets, a struggling team, is always a tall order, but I think that they have found a keeper in Bobrovsky.

As we start to see more quality players coming into Columbus, I am reminded of a reoccurring thought, and that is that winning teams make plays to win, and losing teams make plays to lose.  A great example of this was during the Blue Jackets current road trip.  They led 3-1 against the San Jose Sharks in the Shark tank, the Sharks would come back to tie the game with about 3 minutes left in the 3rd.  Much to my surprise with about 1:30 left the Blue Jackets scored what would be the game winner.  Too many times we have seen the Blue Jackets cave, but that was not to be.  The Blue Jackets turning the corner.

The Blue Jackets are starting to make the plays that winning teams make on a consistent basis.  I think they have fed off the Gaborik trade, because they have won 6 of the last 7 games.  You can see a different in the way they have been playing.  They are skating faster and playing much better over all.  They also seem to be playing better as a team.  The lines are rolling better, as the roles of players are becoming more defined.  I hope they can carry this into the 2014 campaign.

As for the future of the Blue Jackets in 2014, they move to the Eastern Conference.  They leave what I have referred to as the division of death.  The central division has been one of the toughest divisions in the NHL for the past couple of years.  The Blue Jackets will move East with the Detroit Red Wongs, the other three will stay in the West.  This will give the Blue Jackets a better chance to practice more with less travel between games.  This should be another plus for the Blue Jackets moving forward.

Casual fans might be disappointed with the way that this season is finishing up.  The Blue Jackets playoff are getting slimmer.  Honestly, there is great hope for the future here.  Ownership and management of the team finally seem to be getting the ship rowing in the right direction.  They have players like Bobrovsky and Gaborik that are cornerstones in the roster moving forward.  The playoffs are coming in the future, the time is now to Join the Battle!

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