GAMES 41-50 (2-7-1, 13-31-6)
Another 2-7-1 stretch. Yup. Rock bottom.
We can all pause and take a deep breath, as Scott Arniel was removed as head coach. Gallos wrote the first eulogy, I offered another - with a little forward looking on the upcoming Todd Richards interim coaching tenure.
(It should be noted that Richards had a rocky start, seeing that all but one game in this stretch was on his watch. As time will show, he eventually got his act together. Or the team realized that there was nothing of substance to play for and decided to turn into world beaters. But I digress.)
Let's remember that six other NHL teams changed coaches before Arniel got the ziggy. Six. Of those, three (St. Louis, Los Angeles and Washington) apparently had enough time to salvage their seasons to the point that they made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I'm not sure that anyone could have taken this Blue Jackets team to the promised land, not after Arniel screwed the pooch out of the gate, but waiting until January assured that this season would be lost.
In the darkest of days, Alison found a few more things to be happy about.
Gallos took in the first Todd Richards-coached practice and was impressed. He also had some strong opinions on the notion of a "nuclear option" where the Blue Jackets roster would be blown to kingdom come.
Greg was particularly struck (in a positive way) by what he saw in the game 45 win against Edmonton and recalled some profound comments about how - unlike Arniel - Richards apparently respected his players enough to let them go out and win the game when the chips were down.
The fanbase got restless, and some ideas about an "Occupy Nationwide" event started percolating. In the interest of keeping the fan dialogue going, I posted a guest piece by Mark Erickson (Twitter's RedditCBJ) on why he wasn't in favor of the whole thing. (The Cookie Monster graphic was my insertion...I found it funny.)
The blog hit 1,000 posts - and I shared my (not quite epic) quest for knowledge and understanding in the desolation of one of the worst sports seasons that I've ever endured up close. And yes, the ending was supposed to leave the reader a bit dissatisfied.
But the fun and games were over, and it was time to get serious about this team.
And this is where the recap gets personal...perhaps the defining point between blogging as faux journalism and blogging as an expression of the author's perspective. That's a huge difference, one that I hope my readers recognize. This is a blog, and I'm not apologizing for it. And, to be clear, I welcome my compadres on the blog to share their opinions...as they have done.
The following three posts: The Big Question and What I Would Do: The Management and What I Would Do: The Roster were perhaps the three posts that were hardest for me to write and, at the same time, the most rewarding to write. I found, if you will, my voice. And that shaped my outlook for the balance of the season and going forward.
The conclusions drawn by those three posts also pushed me to join the CBJ Fan Protest over All-Star Weekend at Nationwide arena. I explained "why" in a little more detail. My opinion wasn't unanimously shared on the blog, and that's OK. It's a free country, and we have to respect each others' views.
What I did find somewhat sad was how the Blue Jackets handled the protest from a public relations perspective. The reclusive John McConnell suddenly surfaced and offered a mid-season apology of sorts, then offered up a rare Dispatch interview, in the week prior to the event...as if to say, "I know my team stinks. I'm thinking about doing something about it." Of course, implicit in that was, "You fans really don't need to go out and protest."
Then the Blue Jackets landed the 2013 All-Star Game for Columbus (discussion on landing the game itself here), as if that event cancelled out the fact that the team has been on a near-straightline downward trajectory since the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Hint: The event has ZERO bearing on the team. Except that putting the event on the heels of a catastrophic season makes a discussion point out of the notion that Columbus won't have a merit-based participant in the event that its management was so proud to land.) Putting the announcement on a loop on the Arena District outdoor screen during the protest...well, I suppose that they're entitled to do that. It was, however, sad.
Then there was the protest itself. I'm glad I was a part of it and remain optimistic that it, and the activities that followed through the rest of the season, will help prod this stubborn, losing franchise into making some smart, positive moves. Perhaps it already has.
Back on the ice, Alison offered up The [Jeff] Carter Conundrum. Well stated, I say. There's so much to his time in Columbus that we'll never know about. (And let's not forget the Andy Krygier offered a terrific Jeff Carter post-mortem in his season recap series.)