Friday, August 31, 2012

Ground Floor: The 2012-13 Columbus Blue Jackets

The sports saying goes that while it is enjoyable to live life in your league's penthouse, the real fun is in taking the elevator ride to the top.

The transformation from a failed team into a champion brings a host of memories, be they from overcoming internal obstacles and demons to finally defeating those who have profited at one's expense for years and years.  It will involve that return - finally - to the playoffs and perhaps lead to a championship.  Above all, however, the elevator ride is the time where a collection of players and coaches finally become a genuine team.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, fresh off their 30th place finish in the 2011-12 National Hockey League season, are ready to start their elevator ride.  They will be making their journey with a very different cast of characters than we've been used to seeing in Ohio's capital city.

Superstar forward and team captain Rick Nash is gone, as is the arguable 2011-12 team MVP, goaltender Curtis Sanford.  Defender Marc Methot will be patrolling another blue line.  The Jeff Carter experiment is over.  Antoine Vermette, Grant Clitsome, Sammy Pahlsson, Aaron Johnson...all playing elsewhere.

No current Blue Jacket played with the team prior to the 2007-08 season.  In fact, the most tenured CBJ player now is Jared Boll.

Replacing those familiar faces are the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Artem Anisimov, Adrian Aucoin, Tim Erixson and Ryan Murray.  They came by trade, through free agency and the draft and now are going to be looked to for meaningful contributions as the club works to change its recent fortunes.

Interim head coach Todd Richards is now under contract for two seasons, and he added former head coach Craig Hartsburg and Keith Acton to his staff while seeing Brad Berry move along to other challenges.  Only Dan Hinote remains from the staff that started the 2010-11 season.

The Blue Jackets are at the ground floor. They have nowhere to go but up.

While the National Hockey League owners and players union swap proposals and try to bring about a new collective bargaining agreement to avoid a player lockout by the owners, we in the NHL fanbase can only presume that the 2012-13 season will start on time until facts dictate otherwise.  Thus, we begin the process of previewing the season that we hope will start with the opening of training camp in roughly two to three weeks.

This season preview series will cross two blogs, bringing together my Dark Blue Jacket Plus work at FoxSportsOhio.com with Gallos and Alex's contributions at the Dark Blue Jacket blog.  I hope to try to provide answers to the offseason agenda items presented earlier this summer, and my partners will offer their own perspectives on the issues they deem most compelling heading into the season.

The slate has largely been wiped clean.  The team starts fresh as they begin the 2012-13 campaign.  It's time to step on the elevator and see where it takes us.

Enjoy the ride, everyone.

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