|A graphic that, sadly, I never got to use this season.|
I'm sure you understand.
Thus, I'll suggest that it comes down to points, differentials between those points and what it takes to qualify, final position in the conference. I also think that the number of days remaining in the season after the team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs is a worthwhile number to consider, because that gives a perspective on how many "worthless" (from a playoff chase point of view) games the CBJ fans had to endure.
With some help from Twitter's @En4cer45 (who actually pitched in on this research) and @JohnTKemp (who happened to post a Tweet with some of what I was looking for), and way too much time spent combing the Columbus Blue Jackets website and the Columbus Dispatch archives, I've come up with this:
So what have we? As we already know, the 2010-11 season was the second best in team history - and the best season got the CBJ into the playoffs. Befitting that status, it stands to reason that the team had fewer "dead man walking" days than any other team in team history.
What I find most surprising, however, is the differential between Hitchcock's 2007-08 squad and this year's. There were only three extra days of pain in 07-08, and Hitch was still on a trajectory that wound up with the team in the playoffs the following year. Can we say the same about this season? Are we as CBJ fans as optimistic about 11-12 as we may have been going into 08-09? Should we be?
And then, look at 2009-10. A 79-point season, third best in team history, yet eliminated with over a month left in the season. That speaks volumes to the need to keep pace with the conference over the course of the season, and that a late season push only rarely salvages a season to the point of playoff qualification.
It's pretty clear that the bar is continuing to rise in the Western Conference, and the CBJ are having a tough time keeping up. Compare the 73-point 2006-07 season, where the CBJ wound up in 11th, to 07-08, 09-10 and 10-11. All better seasons from a point total perspective and no better than 13th. Sure, there may have been more three-point games, but it's awful hard to deny that the West has been increasingly tougher over the years.
Lastly, look at 2001-02. Whenever you say how lousy the CBJ are, consider how crappy it would be to be entirely out of it for upwards of two to three entire months.
So yes, it was a rough season...but there were only 9 days of purgatory this time around. I'm still bearish on this roster as currently composed - and have been so for some time - but find that this piece has me pausing to consider the larger picture.
I just don't feel the same about this roster as I did in 07-08. It's possible that I still had the bloom on the CBJ newbie rose then and now am deeply into the "familiarity breeds contempt" stage of my CBJ fandom. I'm much sharper in my view of the team and their performance, and I've seen enough of the rest of the league to know that there's no good reason that the Columbus Blue Jackets have been so bad for so long.
It's also possible that, well, this squad doesn't have what it takes.