Friday, December 3, 2010
Game 24/Buffalo: My Take
On the bright side, there are 81 other games.
That being said, this was a debacle on every level. Two early-ish CBJ goals were overturned. Rather than "dig in" (to use a Hitch-ism), the Blue Jackets instead retreated to that dreaded "safe place" where they started cycling the puck and not meaningfully attacking the other team. It's like they raised the white flag.
The refereeing was horrible. The CBJ's spirit was horrible. The team lost any sense of discipline and fight. Scratch that, there were some fights. Most likely, a suspension or suspensions will come from it. Just ugly in all forms.
With the winless streak now hitting four games, the Blue Jackets are into what any reasonable observer would call a slump. It doesn't take a long memory to recall the epic slide of November 2009-January 2010 that cost Ken Hitchcock his job. I'm not going to be as dumb to suggest that Scott Howson will fire Scott Arniel, but I will suggest that this is probably the moment that Arniel was hired for. (It's also the moment that Ethan Moreau was claimed for, but I'll stick with Arniel for this post.) Surely Howson discussed this confounding attribute of his team with every coaching candidate over the offseason. Now, it's Arniel's job to pull the team out of that "safe place" - or, better yet, to facilitate an environment when they pull themselves out.
In their ten-year history, the Columbus Blue Jackets have only once pushed themselves into the category of winner, of Stanley Cup Playoff qualifier. Every other time, they were undermanned or lacked the competitive passion to push themselves over the top. This year's squad has the highest payroll in team history, and arguably has more talent than any previous squad. In my opinion, their problems are overwhelmingly mental. And they have to stop the slide.
On the somewhat bright side, the CBJ still have 9 points over the past 8 games, keeping them on what I consider to be a playoff pace.
NEXT UP: The Pittsburgh Penguins roll into Nationwide Arena tomorrow (Saturday) night with a gaudy eight-game winning streak under their belts. Sidney Crosby has been on fire, and the rest of the team is playing well enough to support his efforts. The game will likely be a sellout, which raises the specter of my post on fixing the attendance issue. CBJ fans can only hope that the team rebounds strong after tonight.