Sunday, December 13, 2009

So where exactly is the bottom?

It's nearly 24 hours since the Columbus Blue Jackets lost their most recent game, and I'm still cranky.  We all hear about a team hitting rock-bottom before they pick themselves up and right the ship, and I'm fairly certain we haven't hit it yet.  But look at what's happened on the way down...

  1. Playing the stiff in the hat trick debut of Dany Heatley in the San Jose Sharks' season opener - the third game of the season.  We lost that one, 6-3.
  2. Serving as a speed bump for the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.  We lost that one, the seventh game of the season, 6-3.  
  3. Giving Dustin Penner a platform for All Star (or I guess Olympics this year) status as the Edmonton Oilers cruised over us, 6-4 in the eighth game of the season.
  4. Giving Anze Kopitar & Alexander Frolov a venue to engage in target practice as the Los Angeles Kings crushed us, 6-2 in the tenth game of the season.
  5. Being systematically dismantled by the Detroit Red Wings, 9-1, in the seventeenth game of the season.
  6. Taking our star turn on Broadway and flopping on opening night after a disastrous performance against the New York Rangers, losing 7-4 in the twenty-second game of the season. 
  7. The (shudder) game against the Toronto Maple Leafs where we were shellacked, 6-3 - the twenty-eighth game of the season.
  8. Yesterday's listless loss to the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Anaheim Ducks, 3-1 in the thirty-second game of the season.  
And those were only the really noxious losses.

Rick Gethin resurrected RJ Umberger's comment about the losing needing to hurt before this team turns it around - a full seven days after he made the statement.  Since that statement, the CBJ  went 1-1-1...beating (lousy) Florida, losing to Nashville in the shootout and (ugh) Anaheim.  Guess it doesn't hurt yet.

It pains me to conclude that the Blue Jackets are going nowhere fast...not bad enough to force GM Scott Howson to make a dynamic-shifting personnel move, not good enough to make a run at the playoffs. They're slouching into a permanent non-playoff position.  I know that we're supposed to be patient with the young team that, due to the lousy Olympic schedule where the team can't practice for three straight weeks (!!), is still on a learning curve at every position and in every phase of the game.  And that stinks.

In this salary cap era, teams have a very short window to make their run at the playoffs with a given group of core players.  Detroit is a shell of what it was.  Pittsburgh is on the clock with the Crosby-Malkin-Staal combo (they already jettisoned last year's shutdown defensive pairing).  Chicago will need to revamp itself in the offseason with precious little flexibility.  We have our talented core locked down for a just a few years and need to progress toward playoff-worthy play...before it's too late.

So when is it going to end?  When will the losing hurt too much?  Where, exactly, is this bottom that we hear of...and when will the Blue Jackets start playing like the promising, passion-filled team that Columbus fell in love with last season?

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