Again, I'll let coach Arniel speak to the specifics of the Calgary matchup as the game won't be available on GameCenter Live for another 24 hours. When he says this in response to a question from The Fan's uber-reporter Lori Schmidt, though, watch out:
“I try not to put too much into last year and year’s past,” Arniel said. “I wasn’t here so I don’t 100 percent know what happened. But I’m learnin’ here. I’m seeing things. I’m starting to learn some things about this team, and some of them I really don’t like.”After seeing the press conference video, reviewing the boxscore and reflecting on the above comment, I do feel like I can comment intelligently in this area. The larger themes that Arniel addresses are those that Blue Jackets fans have been discussing for some time. It's not just Calgary...it's Chicago...it's last season's epic slide...it's so much more.
Welcome to Columbus, Scott Arniel.
Arniel is not the only person in CBJ management to pick up some of these shortcomings. By his personnel moves starting in the middle of last year, Scott Howson has demonstrated that he recognizes that leadership and player focus - not physical tools - is the overarching challenge facing the Boys in Union Blue. Since the mid-point of last season, Howson brought in two other teams' captains (Chris Clark and Ethan Moreau) and swapped out Ken Hitchcock and his staff for Arniel and his crew. He largely has not made any other moves, apparently hoping (praying?) that these changes would light the spark under our talented yet strangely underachieving roster in Columbus. He didn't get a sniper, the Mythical Top-Line Center, the Puck-Moving Defenseman or a new goalie. He got leaders and motivators to provide the spark.
Thus far, it's a reasonable statement to say that the Blue Jackets have not found that spark. I'm not sure we can say that they have had a dominant victory thus far in 2010-2011. They have had two inept losses, however. Arniel himself has said that after 5-6 games, the team should have picked up the new system sufficiently, so we can't use the coaching swap as an excuse any longer. It's (past) time to perform.
This is a strange season on a number of levels. The Jackets are under pressure to perform on the ice to demonstrate why the locals should buy tickets and tune into broadcasts. Ticket sales and TV/radio ratings generate (and eventually demonstrate) broader public support for the team, which will prod community leaders to take the required steps to end the Arena District stalemate and secure the team in Columbus for the long haul. By laying eggs in front of the home crowds in two of three home games (and holding on for dear life in the third), this team is doing precious little to show the hometown folks that their efforts are worth supporting. That scares me, as I really would like to share the Blue Jackets with my son for years and years to come.
One would think that the players would recognize these linkages and - professional pride aside - do their part to help the team through this challenging time. I think that they likely appreciate what's going on; team leaders like Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger offer the right comments in the media that suggest they get it. But that begs the question: Why is the motivation inherent in the preceding paragraph not enough to inspire the team - especially its highest-paid stars - to perform hard on every shift, every night?
In other words, why can't the Blue Jackets' $3 million to $8 million players give the effort and deliver the results that we see from their $500,000 players?
Until these questions are answered on the ice, I am forced to conclude that we fans will be seeing more of the same of what we've witnessed thus far...or start seeing changes in the roster.
This post could be considered an over-reaction considering how early we are in the season...but if it is, it's not by much. You see, these problems are the same ones that we've been dealing with in Columbus for a long while.