Monday, April 4, 2011

How bad was it - really?

The time for post-season reviews is close upon us, and it's time to put this season in perspective. You can bet that the Columbus Blue Jackets management has already started this, seeing as the likes of AHLers Kubalik, Mayorov and Leneveu are now getting playing time in Columbus. It's all about post-mortems, player evaluations and trying to ascertain what assets are worth keeping and which can be moved out in the hoped for offseason improvements in Columbus.

A graphic that, sadly, I never got to use this season.
I'm sure you understand.
One element of any review has to be an answer to the question of "How bad was it - really?"  While a number of different factors will come into play on a host of forthcoming evaluations (here and elsewhere), I'll suggest that the pentultimate determinant of the answer to the question comes in the standings.  Goals, save percentages, plus/minus, salary cap hits, corsi numbers, average time on ice, et al surely have their place and demand scrutiny, but it's all about winning in the end.  Doesn't matter how you win..just matters that you win in the hopes of making a playoff run and winning a championship.

Thus, I'll suggest that it comes down to points, differentials between those points and what it takes to qualify, final position in the conference.  I also think that the number of days remaining in the season after the team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs is a worthwhile number to consider, because that gives a perspective on how many "worthless" (from a playoff chase point of view) games the CBJ fans had to endure.

With some help from Twitter's @En4cer45 (who actually pitched in on this research) and @JohnTKemp (who happened to post a Tweet with some of what I was looking for), and way too much time spent combing the Columbus Blue Jackets website and the Columbus Dispatch archives, I've come up with this:

*Extrapolated from Columbus Dispatch inferences
**Could not find an accurate date.  Considering a 57-point season, I would guess Jan./Feb.
***Numbers as of April 4, 2011 - three games still left in the regular season

So what have we?  As we already know, the 2010-11 season was the second best in team history - and the best season got the CBJ into the playoffs.  Befitting that status, it stands to reason that the team had fewer "dead man walking" days than any other team in team history.

What I find most surprising, however, is the differential between Hitchcock's 2007-08 squad and this year's.  There were only three extra days of pain in 07-08, and Hitch was still on a trajectory that wound up with the team in the playoffs the following year.  Can we say the same about this season?  Are we as CBJ fans as optimistic about 11-12 as we may have been going into 08-09?  Should we be?

And then, look at 2009-10.  A 79-point season, third best in team history, yet eliminated with over a month left in the season.  That speaks volumes to the need to keep pace with the conference over the course of the season, and that a late season push only rarely salvages a season to the point of playoff qualification.

It's pretty clear that the bar is continuing to rise in the Western Conference, and the CBJ are having a tough time keeping up.  Compare the 73-point 2006-07 season, where the CBJ wound up in 11th, to 07-08, 09-10 and 10-11.  All better seasons from a point total perspective and no better than 13th.  Sure, there may have been more three-point games, but it's awful hard to deny that the West has been increasingly tougher over the years.

Lastly, look at 2001-02.  Whenever you say how lousy the CBJ are, consider how crappy it would be to be entirely out of it for upwards of two to three entire months.

So yes, it was a rough season...but there were only 9 days of purgatory this time around.  I'm still bearish on this roster as currently composed - and have been so for some time - but find that this piece has me pausing to consider the larger picture.

I just don't feel the same about this roster as I did in 07-08.  It's possible that I still had the bloom on the CBJ newbie rose then and now am deeply into the "familiarity breeds contempt" stage of my CBJ fandom.  I'm much sharper in my view of the team and their performance, and I've seen enough of the rest of the league to know that there's no good reason that the Columbus Blue Jackets have been so bad for so long.

It's also possible that, well, this squad doesn't have what it takes.


  1. Intangibles that do not show up in your analysis:
    1) Abject humiliation - Lopsided blow-outs. On Friday nights. At home.
    2) Whosyerdaddy? - Opponent fanbase taking over the Nat. More cheers for the bad guys than the home boys. Taunts & insults, with no response from CBJ.
    3) Not one, but two prolonged, epic-sized, disastrous losing streaks. The second coming after our GM made the first ever "We're buyers, not sellers" trade deadline acquisitions. Also, the second implosion was in response to the question "When the going gets tough...." Apparently our answer is to fold up our tents and head home. Not even competitive.
    4a) Bitter disappointment, 2010 off-season as our GM states "I'm comfortable going to battle with this group of defensemen." Really? Really?
    4b) Bitter disappointment, as the Savior-du-jour, Filitov crashes and burns, smoldering in Springfield.

    In conclusion, there may have been only 9 days of purgatory, but there were the entire months of December and March, which as it turns out were prolonged water torture.

  2. I can't argue with any of that, I.M., so I won't try. In this case, the devil is most certainly in the details.

  3. My biggest thing about this season is that: when the schedule got tough from the standpoint of lack-of-practice time, that seemed to be what separated the men from the boys in the NHL. When Columbus had ample time between games to practice, they played well... sometimes exceptionally well (14-6-0 once, and 11-3-2 another time). But, the two months that sunk the season were December and March. Common thread? 16 games in 31 days in each month. No practice time.

    Why can't the Jackets deal with it when other teams can? Is it a "new system" kind of thing? One could argue that for December, but March? Shouldn't professional players know their system after 60 games? Is it a "young guys" thing, like a rookie wall of sorts? Either way, that's the one thing I would say I can go to in terms of "why did this season fail"?

  4. I'm about to be pedantic

    I think you meant interpolated rather than extrapolated since the blue jackets were not eliminated after the season ended


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