Tuesday, February 1, 2011
After the bitter disappointment of the tailspin from Thanksgiving until mid-January...
After the Tums-popping play to reverse that slide since January 14...
The playoff lives of the CBJ essentially come down to 12 games.
Those are the number of games until the February 28 NHL trade deadline for the 2010-11 season. If the Blue Jackets perform well in those 12 games, perhaps they can angle back into the Western Conference playoff picture in a meaningful way. Considering that the team is only five points behind the 8th place team, one would think that there's plenty of reason for optimism. At the same time, they're tied for 13th place. That means that the CBJ have to leapfrog five teams to get to 8th.
I'm not suggesting that the team needs to be in the 8th seed by the trade deadline. I am suggesting that they probably need to be in spitting distance of 8th - one or two points away, on the front end of the standings logjam could be acceptable - to avoid Scott Howson and Mike Priest taking a hard look at their roster (and ticket sales) and placing a garage sale ad on Craigslist.
Howson has been ridiculously patient with this roster, especially its vaunted "young core," and it's hard to make an argument that the patience has paid dividends. Over the last couple of seasons, he's made moves to try to shake things up. He loaned a malcontent to a Russian team. He fired his (likely) Hall of Fame coach. He jettisoned veterans (Torres, Modin) to make room for the kids. He moved an over $3 million annual contract to Springfield, freeing up salary cap space but not relieving team ownership of the financial obligation. He brought a kid who was playing in the Memorial Cup last season up to the big roster. Despite all this, I don't think anyone can say that the on-ice outcome has meaningfully improved.
If this locker room likes the way things are from a people and personality perspective, they need to get it in gear yesterday. There's only so much tinkering (term used loosely, as firing Hitch was much more than "tinkering") that Howson can do before he and Priest decide that the current CBJ roster model is not working and decide to start divesting player assets at the trade deadline...slashing payroll and starting to reshape the roster for future years' hopeful playoff runs.
12 games. Chicago. Detroit. Edmonton. Pittsburgh. San Jose. Colorado. Dallas. Los Angeles. Chicago. Nashville. Phoenix. Nashville.
If there ever was a Time to Step Up, it's now. Because time is running out.