One day ago, the CBJ were facing the prospect of hosting the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues, who sported a gaudy 9-1-1 record. The Jackets were not in a bad position per se, with an 8-5 record and an eight seed in the West, but they came off a disappointment against Minnesota that was punctuated by a deflating third period.
|Scott Howson and Scott Arniel appear to understand that the keys to|
a consistent winning program don't entirely lie in X's and O's.
(Photo from the Columbus Blue Jackets)
- I predict a stressful game tonight.
- I'm still keeping some painkillers close at hand for tonight's game regardless.
- I must admit, going into last nights Blue Jackets game, I didn’t have a good feeling about our chances against the Blues. Over the last several years, we’ve been punked every which way but loose by that team. Now, they were coming into Nationwide with the best record in the Western Conference, riding a 7 game winning streak, and Halak was in goal.
- I'm man enough to admit it: This game had me scared. I honestly thought that that CBJ were going to come out and, like so many times before, melt in the face of the challenge of a big game.
- There weren't a lot of folks around the league who gave the Blue Jackets much of a chance in this one. Hell, there weren't a lot of folks in Columbus who gave them much of chance either (and certainly not the two guys sitting behind me on my flight to Chicago this morning). I'm not going to tell you that I did. I would classify my pregame mood as somewhat concerned.
I'm sure I could find more examples, but this is a decent, representative sample of what I was sensing from at least some. (But not all!) And dare I say that the concern was the same inside the CBJ locker room? Check out this bit from the Dispatch pre-game coverage:
“If you let things bother you before you ever play the game – shame on you, especially being a professional athlete,” [CBJ head coach Scott] Arniel said “It’s all about what happens next. You can’t worry about what your record has been in other years.”We have yet another case where Arniel sees the problem and attacks it head-on. This one isn't about on-ice competitiveness, though. It's about taking on the culture of a losing franchise head-on. This is hard work that takes time and persistence. And Arniel isn't alone in this crusade: As I've mentioned in days past, general manager Scott Howson has used almost all of his personnel chips since the middle of last season not on improving team skill but instead on changing the team's mindset through the addition of veteran leaders like Clark and Moreau.
|Jake Voracek and the Columbus Blue Jackets are learning to|
be winners - perhaps we fans should follow suit and embrace
them as winners. Is the bar rising in Columbus?
(Photo from the Bleacher Report)
So what did Arniel and his troops come out and do? They backed it up. In spades. After setting the tone even before the puck dropped, they destroyed the St. Louis Blues in roughly 30 minutes of game play. (The back 30, in my opinion, was about piling on the glory over the beaten opponent and denying the Blues the chance to save face as the game wound down.)
Games like take on an importance that far exceeds the two points that the CBJ picked up in the standings (not to mention the 1-2 points denied to the Blues). The term "statement game" is apt. This game sent a statement, both inside and outside the locker room, that the Columbus Blue Jackets can not just be "not bad," not just be good...but actually be dominant.
This is a message that will take time to sink in, though. It took 10 years for the Blue Jackets (and their fans) to learn the ways of the losing franchise. The feeling won't change overnight.
We're off to a good start with this Howson/Arniel combination. They're saying the right things. They're doing the right things. It's a long season, and there's 10 years of losing to un-learn, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the combination of the second Chicago game, the Philadelphia game, the Montreal game and last night's demolition of St. Louis is suggesting that the worm finally has turned.
So perhaps it's time to consider dropping our emotional defenses as we gain confidence in this team - just as they appear to be gaining confidence in themselves. And, just perhaps, (well-stated) post-game expressions of loathing followed by surprise like this won't be necessary as the days roll on...
My family didn't want to go to this game. They thought it was going to be a "butt-kicking". They were right. This game is by far the most exciting game we've ever been to...I think we're on our way.