Sunday, June 8, 2014

Confessions of a Doe Eyed Fan Boy, Reflecting on 2013-14

Nash and Umby in 2011
During the McConnell Cup Playoff
As I was reading over on the incomparable Puck Daddy last week, either Leahy or Lambert made some comment about 'doe eyed fan boys' who couldn't believe their team actually lost.  The line cracked me up, because in my history as a Blue Jackets fan it's safe to say I've chugged a few gallons of Doug MacLean's Kool-Aid, which definitely makes me qualified for the moniker.

However, throw in a few good hockey learning experiences (see Hitchcock, Ken) and a few bitter hockey learning experiences (see Arniel, Scott), and I'm creeping towards some sense of perspective regarding the home town Blue Jackets.  Since taking the plunge on season tickets right before the 2004-05 lockout, I've seen a lot of hockey down at Nationwide Arena.  Some of it was down right ugly.

We've had teams that couldn't seem to connect a pass (a tape to boot pass, rather than a tape to tape pass), and have spent more than a few occasions urging the CBJ coaches to 'decline the penalty', as our power play was more of a scoring opportunity for the opposition.  Pressure to the points on our historic power play, and you had a good chance for a short-handed goal.

A lot of that changed with the 2013-14 team, which turned in an extremely entertaining year of hockey for the fans.  There were ups, and there were downs, but there was sustained progress after several years of sustained regression following the 2008-09 playoff season.  All of that has contributed to making it very difficult to provide content during this early summer, because the reservoir of bile and frustration that I usually draw on is absent this year.

It has been a summer of contentment for this 'doe eyed fan boy', so now seems a good time to look back a bit at the 2013-14 season, the most successful season in franchise history <blissful sigh>.

Looking back on last year's season, the most important thing that jumps out at me is the 'most wins in franchise history' tag, turning in 43 Wins - 32 Losses - and 7 Overtime Losses.  You've had a good year when you are on that roster, and this team deserves a lot of credit for how hard they fought all year long to get to be 'the winningest team in franchise history'.  Problematically, that is still only good enough for 15th place in the NHL, so that bar is still sufficiently low that it is to be hoped that future teams can eclipse it before too much time has gone by.  Say for instance, next year, in 2014-15.  But right now that margin is very slim, and misfortune could jump up and knock us out of the making the playoffs before you know it.

What are the things that are a hedge against future misfortune?  The ability to win on the road is one.  The 2013-14 team won the most road games in franchise history, going 21W-17L-3OTL.  This is a great job by this years team, showing resiliency on the road.  I wonder if they will still have that when memories of Western Conference travel have faded?  I think so, as the style of hockey they play is pretty portable to a hostile arena.

The 2013-14 team also scored the most goals in franchise history, coming in with 226 Goals For. Another good way to have a successful season is to scored goals.  Many of us, including myself, wondered where the goal scoring was going to come from when Vinny Prospal was not re-signed.  At that time it was hard to predict that Ryan Johansen would have a 33 goal season, and emphatically answering that question.

With all these things considered, it was a really fun year to watch hockey in Columbus.  And we haven't even started to talk about the joy of the playoffs.

There's a lot to like early on in this summer of contentment for this fan boy.  It's unusual for me to feel that way, but it feels good.  And with the group of prospects clustering into the minor leagues for next year, I think the future looks bright.  Said the glass-half-full kinda guy.  But for now, I need to slap some shades over these soft doe eyes, and go out and enjoy the summer.  And reflect some more on past and future Blue Jackets.  It's a good place to be this year.

GO JACKETS!!

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