Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Grand Army: DBJ's 2011-2012 season preview

Perhaps the most harrowing moment for yours truly at CannonFest was the question, "When does this year's 'Time to Step Up' series start?"  Without question, that series was the most grueling experience I've had with this blog.  "Time to Step Up" makes the CannonFest marketing barrage feel like a cold glass of lemonade enjoyed from the perch of a tall rocker on a warm summer night.  I'm telling you, "Time to Step Up" was downright painful at times.  Seriously, YOU try finding enough to write about Tomas Kana...and 30-odd other players, coaches and personnel staff.

Long story made short, "Time to Step Up" isn't going to happen this year - at least from me.  Gallos, you're welcome to knock yourself out.  Other CBJ bloggers, go for it.  But not DBJ.

The Captain is in the prime of his career,
and his supporting cast now appears capable
of helping him make a run at NHL glory.
In fact, my thinking over what I would be doing this preseason led me to a few conclusions:
  • This team has had an overhaul, and the new players are intriguing and worth writing about.
  • Any intense statistical review of the past season is largely worthless because of said overhaul.  
  • Not every player warrants a preview article.  That doesn't make them bad players per se but rather players that I don't find demanding of attention.
  • Unlike the beginning of last season (where "Time to Step Up" proved prescient - as the team largely did NOT step up and faced an overhaul as a result), I'm largely bullish on the Blue Jackets this season.  I said that everything had to turn out right last season for the Blue Jackets to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I'm not so sure that the margin of error is so slim this year.
  • I've already been writing preview posts and didn't recognize it until now.  
Thus, I'm going to avoid the technical "preview the players" and "preview the offense-defense-goalies-etc." pieces.  Instead, I'm going to write (hopefully) more thoughtful pieces and fewer statistical regurgitations.  Those players or staff that warrant such treatment will receive it.  Those that don't, won't.  

As for the team as a whole and my feelings about their chances for 2011-2012: I am very impressed with what I've seen from Scott Howson this offseason.  I'm still baffled at why he largely sat pat for the prior two offseasons, but that only has bearing on this season insofar as it forced him to make overdue, dramatic move after move.  By and large, it would be hard for any informed observer of the Blue Jackets to look at who came and who went and say that (barring further injury) the Columbus Blue Jackets aren't a better team entering 11-12 than the one that entered 10-11.  

The CBJ went "all in" with the cannon-
themed thirds.  Now, they have an army
to match the marketing.
As such, I'm titling this series, "The Grand Army" out of respect for the fully embraced Civil War heritage that the Blue Jackets display through the arena cannon and last season's new third sweaters.  Beyond the aesthetics, however, I honestly believe that this roster can be looked at as a potent National Hockey League force for the first time since I became a Blue Jackets fan in 06-07.  They're now more cannon (and not Boomer, thank you) than Stinger.  The comic edge and loveable loser feel is largely gone, and this team appears (at least on paper) ready to stand up and fight their way for 82 games to make a serious playoff run.  This is our Grand Army, and we CBJ fans should be proud and excited to support them as they march their way through the National Hockey League.  

My thinking on the regular season has only solidified since early July: If Steve Mason keeps both his head and body right, qualifying for the playoffs should not be a concern.  If Mason falters, and if Mark Dekanich cannot pick up the slack (My peers in Nashville think that he could rival, if not exceed Mason, over the course of an entire season.  Whether that is overestimation of the formidable Nashville goaltending development system or an endorsement of Dekanich, I can't tell.), expect nothing higher than tenth in the West.  As such, the most important person in the Blue Jackets organization may actually be new "full time" goaltending coach Ian Clark.  

So I see a feast or famine season ahead for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  No middle ground, no fighting for that 8th playoff slot in the last week of the season.  Either the many roster improvements stick like so many wet noodles against the proverbial wall and the goaltending holds up, or it won't.  

Enjoy the balance of the offseason, everyone, and rest up.  It's going to be a wild ride for The Grand Army in 2011-2012.  

Following are the Dark Blue Jacket blog posts that make up "The Grand Army" 2011-2012 season preview series.  This list will be updated as more posts are added.  

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