Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Taking Stock at the Christmas Break
For the players, coaches, and other folks related to our favorite team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, I'd like to take this moment to thank them for the effort put forth so far in the season. It takes great character to withstand the type of adversity the team and organization have faced in the first part of the season. The players have rallied, and gotten back to playing 'Blue Jackets Hockey', in spite of a lot of line up changes. The game that they played against the Blackhawks still resonates with me, but the next game against the Preds illustrated how much the emotional investment took out of the team.
The Blue Jackets at their most successful last year essentially rolled 3 second lines, and a highly effective fourth line. With the brutal run of injuries, in many cases we are coming out with a second line, a third line, and two fourth lines. Head Coach Todd Richards (HCTR) has often been reduced to dumping a hot player, or an experiment (e.g. Gibbons, for his speed) on the wing with his number one center, Ryan Johansen. While it is our top line, it would be hard to call it a true number one line. The fourth line has shown some brief flashes, but has yet to jell into the effective force it was last year. The third line is a swirl of change.
The hard hit center position has been in flux all year. If Nick Foligno had not stepped up in the fashion he has, moving from wing to center for the first time in his professional career, the season would be off the rails already. As it is, the mountain yet to climb is steep and hazardous. Two of the main teams we were chasing, the Rangers and the Capitals, went on streaks at the same time we did. The result is that we still sit 9 points out of a playoff spot, with a rash of new injuries on the books, more than canceling out those coming back off of IR.
The injury situation is absolutely amazing. If this season keeps on like it has, and for some unforeseeable (at this time) moment when our players are all healthy, I would hate to play this team. They are going to have some things to prove down the stretch this year, regardless of whether or not they remain in the playoff hunt, and are likely to make things difficult for other teams. Which should make for some entertaining and compelling hockey.
If ever a hockey team needed a four day break, it is this one. Very wise in team management, even if it comes back on us against Boston. For now, take a deep breath, hug and cherish your loved ones, and enjoy the holiday. We'll be back it at before we know!
Merry Christmas everyone!! Happy Holidays!! And....