Sunday, April 10, 2016

Welp, 2015-16 NHL Season Mercifully Ends for CBJ.

Scott Hartnell Scores his 300th Goal
No sense putting lipstick on a pig, this season that derailed from the start is finally over.  A straight shooting John Tortorella is quoted in the Dispatch as saying the win last night 'doesn't mean squat', which is calling it like it is.  At some point you have to come to grips with who you really are, and Tortorella seems like a guy who doesn't shy from that.  This is a pretty average team, that if things had broken our way, we might have been in a dog fight with Philly for that last wild card spot.

This is also a young team with a lot of future potential, but in a league where success is measured with wins and losses, potential doesn't help you at all.  The guy facing you on the ice doesn't care about your potential, he just wants to beat you.  And the Jackets did not manage that situation well this year.

Tortorella says he is focused on something meaningful, by which he means next year.  He is already planning for next year, and the things that the team needs to accomplish.  That list is long, and he has his work cut out for him.  I find these statements by the coach refreshing, as it helps to contribute to understanding our situation.

On the home front, I really enjoyed last night's game.  I can't believe those knucklehead Blackhawks quit skating after the first period and lost that game.  We were laughing hysterically at the first intermission about coming back and winning that game in our discussion of the standings, and son of  gun if we didn't do it.  I had been counting on losing that game.  Most of the other teams won as well, so we could have finished pretty low in the standings.

But is was really sweet to see the big Blackhawks contingent go home disappointed, and the atmosphere was really raucous last night, which  was a lot of fun.  Hartnell scored his 300th goal, FINALLY, after being stuck on 299 for weeks, and that seemed to ignite the Blue Jackets.  And it was a beauty, as he slid in BEHIND Cory Crawford in goal to gather the rebound off the end boards and direct it into the net.  That is a heck of an achievement, and I am really happy for Hartnell.

Dean Kukan
But where I thought the game turned was when Kane had a break away, and Dean Kukan chased him down from behind and denied the shot.  Kukan has real speed, and the Swiss defenseman could be a factor next year, but I'm not really sure anyone is taking that into account.  This guy is a Jarmo guy, signed as a free agent from Lulea in Finland and adds a turn of speed to our back end.  It should be really interesting to see where he picks up next year.  He has looked really solid in his 8 games at the NHL level, notching +4 games twice.  For now, its back to Lake Erie for the playoffs, and more skating for him.  Good luck Dean!

So we finish 27th.  That gives us a 1 in 4 chance of hitting one of the lottery selections and picking in the top 3.  Every team that finished behind us that hits in the lottery is one less spot available for a team that finished ahead of us to hit the lottery, which is good, because that would push us down a selection spot.   Worst we can pick is 7th, so knowing those top 8 or so selections thoroughly is going to be important.  The lottery itself is April 30, so we have a bit of time until we find out where we really fall.  This is the time when our colleagues over at the Cannon and Buckeye State Hockey pick up the ball, as they have writers who are focused on the prospects.  And needless to say, the second round pick that we need to yield for signing Tortorella, a rule that has since been abolished, should be next year's pick, as I think Torts has every intention of being in the playoffs.

There is a part of me that says this team should have recovered more than they did after the awful start.  On the other hand, that was an historically bad start, the worst start in NHL history that didn't happen during war time.  A new coach 7 games into the season.  Whew.  This one was a real lulu.  So in some ways it makes sense that things were so far off the rails.  This was the first time a lot of our young guys experienced having a coach get fired.

So I guess the players will find it liberating to hear the coach say it doesn't mean squat.  Next year means something now.  And that is Torts' sole focus.  We'll be back.  But today and tomorrow are hard truth days for the players, as they go through exit interviews, and get their summer conditioning assignments.  And we'll see where Torts wants to take his staff.  Some of those changes should be interesting.

Another one in the books.


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