As part of our Dark Blue Jacket 2012-13 Ground Floor preview of the Columbus Blue Jackets, it behooves us to take an elevator ride to the floor marked ‘Executive’. While it might be tempting to toss a bit of verbal abuse in Scott Howson’s direction as we pass down the hall, our real goal in this trip is a stop in Craig Patrick’s work space in the organization. I debated whether this stop should be the first, or the last, and decided on the former, as it is the vision emanating from this space that drives what we will see next year, and in many ways, gives a sense of clarity to the last half of disastrous 2011-12 season.
Back in mid-December, I took advantage of the opportunity to hear Craig Patrick speak at a season ticket holder open skate, which I describe more fully here. First off it was very entertaining, providing a glimpse into the life of someone who has lived an awful lot of hockey history. Much of the journey of being a Blue Jackets fan is attempting to put some perspective on what we are seeing in front of us, at least for me anyhow. Craig Patrick has perspective born of vast experience.
During this event, the season ticket holders steered the Q & A section in one direction very quickly. Patrick was asked how he evaluated talent. The short description of his answer was that he looked for character in a player. He said you could always find skill, but finding character was more difficult. In looking forward to our preview, and looking back to the last half of 2011-12, it is clear that in January, the ownership group bought into a re-shaping that was aimed at raising the level of the team’s character, even if it came at the expense of the available skill. That re-shaping is now complete.
In looking back on the last half of 2011-12, and continuing on into the off season, the draft, and the trade deadline, there is one unifying characteristic of all of the players that were acquired. A hard working player of character is a label that they universally wear. A team that is less talented than the next team, but plays as a team, and works its butt off will sell in Columbus. The inaugural team taught us that. They CBJ need success, granted, but so do 29 other teams in the NHL. Success is something that is earned, not given. The CBJ have to find a way to go out and get success.
As we go further into this season preview series, we will be evaluating various aspects of the team moving forward into 2012-13. I think it will become clear during this discussion, that management tried to build a team of high character. Whether that character is sufficient to prevail in the blazing furnace of an NHL season, we can only wait and see. But it is to be hoped that they have assembled a team better able to withstand the heat.