I haven't felt like writing much about the Blue Jackets the past couple of days. I'm excited that NHL playoff hockey is here, and I watched three games last night. But the Blue Jackets and their inability to make the playoffs again, much derived from my 'heart on the sleeve' midget years, has left me with a bit of a void. In most hockey tournaments, the Championship games are played on Sundays. Since the Jacket's were eliminated from the playoffs, I've been in a funk that feels very much like the ride home from a hockey tournament on Saturday night. Being done playing hockey before the other teams have finished is never any fun. I want to play hockey, not watch it. The ride home on Saturday night always seems like it takes twice as long as the drive in took. The ride home is always dark, always quiet.
|I feel empty inside...|
This season itself is not a total loss for me. The Jackets played great hockey the last 6 weeks. We saw a team play hard and they never gave up. The regular season has its merits, but the goal is to win championships. The last two CBJ seasons, with the two teams varying in more ways that one blog post can site, have ended the same way. Great hockey the last 20 games of the season, but not enough to make the playoffs. I will acknowledge that the product I saw on the ice in 2011-2012 is vastly different that the effort shown in this truncated, labor stifled season. But I will not celebrate the climb from 30th to 17th over the course of the past two seasons. The goal is always to get the name "COLUMBUS BLEU JACKETS" stamped into Lord Stanley's chalice. (Yes, I know I spelled it wrong). The underlying fundamentals of Blue Jacket hockey have changed, and that's what this season was about to me.
With their play the last 7 games, I thought the playoffs were a legitimate possibility for the Jackets, but realistically I knew the team needed help. There was no reason they couldn't win out, no matter how unlikely. I didn't hop on the emotionally predatory "Believe" bandwagon. This is not an episode of Grey's Anatomy where a search for emotional fulfillment drives the plot, it's a multi-billion industry of Pro Sports. My focus on this team has always been how well they play, not necessarily the emotional satisfaction I get from being a fan. Yet still, here I sit. Feeling empty, feeling loss. It's not really grief. It's just a funk that will eventually go away. Somehow, indirectly, it happened - I became emotionally attached to the team down the stretch. The feeling I have now is much like the dread of cleaning out your locker at the end of the season, or how the losing candidate must feel the morning after an election. This too will pass. I have a couple fishing trips planned, got a new elliptical to keep in shape, and once the draft rolls around, I'll have new focus on next season.
There is much to look forward to this off season. For the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets have a big boy front office that has been doing big boy things. The team will likely keep most of their first round picks in this years draft, then just days after the draft, free agency begins. I've given JD until 2014-2015 before I really take the front office to task. It will take more than 48 games to right the wrongs done in this organization the past 12 seasons. There have been glimpses of what the front office can do. There was a little bit of trade deadline magic and some good common sense reforms on how the team negotiates with RFAs. So maybe this dark, Saturday night car ride home won't last forever. JD and Jarmo are driving the car now. That in itself will make this funk of the long car ride home disappear sooner than later. Maybe JD will stop for ice cream, who knows...
|Gaborik, eat your heart out.|