Thursday, February 23, 2012

It was one great game...

...but the season has 82 games.

What an incredible Blue Jackets victory looks like from
the camera of a two-and-a-half year old
I'm still reeling.  Not from the Antoine Vermette trade but rather the blitz of the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night. For my money, that was one of the more impressive offensive performances that I've ever seen from the Columbus Blue Jackets.  It was one of those games where the stars actually shone (instead of the grinders covering for the stars), and where the suspect defense and goaltending was good enough to keep the game from being a high-scoring nailbiter shootout.  As I wrote, it was enough to make you wonder if this was a case of right roster, wrong coach.

But it was just one game.

Therein lies the challenge - both for fans and for team management.

Do you look at that one game and say, "Finally, they've gelled?  This is the team we've been waiting to see since September?"

Is one game worth the kool-aid?

Or do you look at the game and say, "I've never seen the Sharks play so poorly.  The CBJ played great, sure, but why couldn't they perform when there was any pressure to win?"

It's a tough one, and I'm glad that the CBJ have a couple games before what should be a nailbiter of a trade deadline.  But does the team's management care at this point?

It's clear that the Blue Jackets are performing better.  They're 5-4-1 in their last ten games...that's five out of the team's 18 combined wins for the entire season.  Twenty-seven percent of their wins in seventeen percent of their games thus far...nothing to sneeze at.

But the pressure to salvage the season IS gone, and the Blue Jackets historically have done OK once they've put themselves in a position where the playoffs are a virtual impossibility.  The only recent exception to that is last year's Scott Arniel-coached squad.  But that squad was coached by Scott Arniel.  Which offers a more than plausible excuse.

Nope, the season has 82 games, 60 of which are in the books.  And the Blue Jackets have had 18 wins, the last one of which was downright impressive.  But then there are the other 42 games where they didn't get it done.

The Dark Blue Toddler also grabbed this photo of game action on Tuesday
I would never be so bold as to put words in team management's mouths, but it sure looks to me like the Antoine Vemette trade - which took place after the San Jose win - suggests that management enjoyed the evening and then got back to the business of blowing up the team.  The Dispatch says that the team is setting up the media room for a larger crowd, which tells me that a pretty big trigger is going to be pulled before 3PM on Monday.  Is it Nash?  Is it Carter?  Both?  Who knows at this point?

Personally, I would take the recent run of reasonably good fortune as a hint to watch the next couple of games closely to better pinpoint who could help the Howson 4.0 Blue Jackets going forward.  Perhaps that means keeping Nash, perhaps that means keeping Carter...or Umberger, Brassard or any other other supporting cast members.  Or perhaps that pushes the sale prices up that much on a player or players who appear to be coming around under new coaching.

It sounds like the die has been cast, though, and I'm OK with that.  (I'm leaving open the question of whether this particular management team should be shepherding in a new era of Blue Jackets hockey, though.)  This team has been on an increasingly steep downward trajectory, and I don't think anyone can blame them for giving up on the team that gave up on them.

Again.

And again.

And again.

(But it was a great game.)

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