To be clear, the game recap has been the heart and soul of this blog since I started it in September 2009. It's taken a number of twists and format iterations, but I've always prided this blog on the fact that every game got some form of unique mention. Going to those lengths is not easy (YOU try staying alert enough to write down a coherent thought or five through all those damned West Coast road trips!), and this season was not a one man show around these parts.
Creating an inventory of 82 unique game recaps (with the occasional in-between game commentaries) took four people this season: Gallos, Greg, Alison and yours truly. Many, many, many thanks go out to my compadres for filling in when I was unable to watch the games or, frankly, lacked motivation to come up with anything constructive. It was that type of a season, and these fine people carried me along. I am in their debt.
I'll give you the first ten in this post and then offer the rest over the days ahead.
GAMES 1-10 (1-8-1, 1-8-1 overall)
If you needed any proof that the Columbus Blue Jackets were utterly unprepared for the 2011-12 regular season, the first 10 games of the season. 1-8-1. What else needs to be said? I've heard a number of theories as to why that might be, but two of them resonate all these many months later:
- The four preseason games that James Wisniewski missed due to his overly-harsh suspension by brand-spanking new NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan - working out to roughly half of the team's training camp - killed any chance that the CBJ blue line would have working chemistry coming into the season. The coaches were forced to patch awkward pairings together for the back half of preseason rather than focus on helping the players work out the kinks. (Note that the CBJ's first win of the season came when Wiz returned from his suspension.)
- Scott Arniel absolutely, totally, 100% whiffed on training camp. Where he should have spent his time and effort integrating his new veteran free agents and trades into the team, he instead appeared to presume that the veterans would take care of themselves and instead spent his time (and the team's practice time) playing with the fancy baubles that were the young prospects. Even back on day one of camp, I was surprised to see Arniel running drills with a line of Rick Nash on one wing, Jeff Carter at center and...Tomas Kubalik on the other wing. Made no sense to me. Kubalik's a special kid, and it won't surprise me if he makes the big club next season, but does it not make more sense to put a veteran (Umberger, Prospal, whomever) on the other wing and focus attention on Nash and Carter building some sense of each others' games?
Then there's the fact that free agent defenseman pickup Radek Martinek was injured in Game 7 and was lost for the season. Another dagger in the blue line's heart.
This stretch was so putrid that I, and a number of other CBJ fans, donned our garish expansion-era sweaters from Game 6 until that first win.
General manager Scott Howson, clearly recognizing that things were not good, posted a "Stand and Fight" message on his blog. I turned it into a brief conversation with an agitated fanbase.
Arniel's coveted young rookies were beginning to get shipped down to Springfield after the fifth game of the season, and Howson was back-filling with less-skilled, "gritty" players.
The Ottawa late-game collapse (implosion?) was especially painful and most likely damaging to the team's psyche for quite some time.
You can blame this falling flat on their faces out of the gate on a lot of things, but I'm now safely guessing that it wasn't because of flu shots. Yeah, I was that desperate to rationalize why this season was tanking so quickly.