Monday, November 1, 2010

Reasons for concern

Lest anyone think I'm adding to the "sky is falling" contingent of Columbus Blue Jackets fans, don't worry.  I don't think the season is lost at the 1/8 pole of the season.

I am, however, concerned.  I've been saying since well before the season that the CBJ have next to no margin for error this season if they are to make the playoffs, and the subject of "margin" is exactly what worries me about this squad.

Let's look at the 10 games thus far.  I broke down the six wins and four losses in two ways - by point tallies of the teams as of today and by margin of win/loss.  Let's go through the wins first (and I included the overtime wins in the "win" column because they got us the two points):
  • San Jose (11 points, 1 point margin)
  • Minnesota (10, 1)
  • Anaheim (9, 2)
  • Chicago (15, 1)
  • Philadelphia (13, 1)
  • Edmonton (8, 1)
That means the CBJ's victims had an average of 11 points, and the average margin of victory was 1.17.  Remember that the CBJ have 12 points.  Thus, that means that they beat four teams that, by their current point level, we could reasonably expect to beat.  Two teams could be considered upsets.  Two of the wins were in overtime, so they were by no means decisive wins.  

Now, the losses.  Because the CBJ both won and lost against Chicago and San Jose, I'm counting those point totals on both sides of the ledger.  (This isn't a precise science...just more an application of what I consider common sense.)  Here we go:
  • San Jose (11 points, 1 point margin)
  • Chicago (15, 3)
  • Calgary (12, 4)
  • Colorado (13, 4)
Average point total of the teams that best us: 12.75.  Average margin of loss: 3 goals.

So we're largely winning over teams that we should be beating.  And we're largely losing to teams which are ranked higher than us.  (Could we say that we're winning the "should wins"?  What about the "must wins"?)  And when we win, it's tight.  When we lose, it's more often gruesome than not.  

The Columbus Blue Jackets' 10th Anniversary season is shaping up to be
memorable - for every possible reason.  (Flickr photo by Julie Rubes)
This looks OK right now (The Blue Jackets ARE over the playoff bar as I type, I realize that...) but is not positive over the long term.  You can spin it any way you want, but the CBJ performance thus far does not inspire tons of confidence.  I've joked that this was going to be a Maalox season, and it's sure shaping up that way.

On the bright side, we fans have a head coach who isn't scared to address problems as they make themselves aware to him - be they line composition, passing proficiency or team confidence.  He also appears to be putting together lineups based upon merit, something that I'm not sure happened with coaches past.  We also have a general manager in Scott Howson who can be the most savvy of riverboat gamblers when it comes to his roster.  Some use the term "ninja" in reference to Howson, and that's probably more accurate than not.  

(And while I'm not suggesting anything is imminent, has anyone thought that perhaps Howson held off on personnel shuffles until Arniel had sufficient time to shake out the roster and figure out who was working in this puck possession system - and who wasn't?  Gosh, we have a lot of cap-friendly contracts...)  

One way or another, we as fans should recognize the progress
that's been made and keep Carrying The Flag.  That said, I can't
blame anyone for pragmatism in the face of reality.
As I mentioned elsewhere, the current Columbus Blue Jackets surely are paying for last season's sins in the court of public opinion.  Reputations aren't built overnight.  This is something I'm keenly aware of as a life-long fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (whose 15-ish year wandering through the college football wilderness is bordering on legendary) and the NFL's Detroit Lions (where the informal fan slogan is "Nothing since 1954, but we're working on it!").  Reputations don't change because of a brief string of success or failure.  And, at 10 years in, this team has conditioned its fanbase to ignore the positive facts on the table and look for the negative.  

As has been said elsewhere (other blogs, Arniel's press conference podium and I believe even Scott Howson's lips), winning cures everything.  Until the winning comes - in consistent manner and with a level of robustness that makes us stop worrying that we stole one from our opposition - I'll suggest that we have reasons for concern.  

Hopefully, there will be fewer and fewer concerns over time.  I really am enjoying being a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and want nothing but the best for the team.  

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