Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The big question

Being away from the scene for a couple weeks forces me into a little catch-up, so bear with me.  I promise, this has direct bearing on the issue of the day (the forthcoming Columbus Blue Jackets fan protest, not the blog's 1000th post!).

Scott Howson and Mike Priest listen to former Blue Jackets head coach
Ken Hitchcock in happier days. (Photo from The Hockey Writers)
As I understand, the newly-reconstituted Blue Jackets ownership group met on January 16th.  The group now includes 30 percent shareholder Nationwide Corporation, however I learned today from the Puck Rakers chat that John P. McConnell still retains 50.1 percent of the team.  Thus, the Blue Jackets are still McConnell's toy to play with despite the new injection of ownership capital by our insurance friends downtown - when you own more than 50 percent, you win every vote.  So it's still McConnell...and everyone else.

Anyhoo, the Dispatch tells us that the meeting apparently included a presentation on the current state of Blue Jackets affairs from team executive management - meaning team president Mike Priest and general manager Scott Howson.  There could have been others, I don't know.  But the Dispatch is suggesting that those two had significant input.

Which brings me to the one question that needs to be answered, decisively, before anything else can be decided:  Is the Columbus Blue Jackets' terrible 2011-12 an aberration, or is it symptomatic of deeper problems on the club?

The Dispatch suggests that ownership went with the former explanation instead of the latter:
The Blue Jackets are blaming the 2011-12 season on their bad luck with injuries.
That is a reasonable conclusion.  Without the injuries, it's fair to think that the team would have more than 13 wins at this point in the season.

Reasonable as that conclusion may be, I strongly disagree.  I believe that while the many injuries (and the Wisniewski suspension) did not help things one bit, they only exacerbated existing problems related to team culture and performance.  In a nutshell, here's why I think this way:
  • The team gave up on Ken Hitchcock in the 2009-10 campaign and essentially got him fired.
  • The team had not one but two terrible slumps in the 2010-11 campaign under Scott Arniel.  
  • The team never got started under Arniel in the 2011-12 campaign and, again, got him fired.
  • The team, despite injuries, hasn't shown more than some flickers of life under Todd Richards. 
  • Beyond the coaches, the Blue Jackets only went 8-9-4 when both Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski were in the lineup. That's not exactly playoff hockey.  Thanks to En4cer45 for the research on that one.
That's three coaches over three seasons that haven't been able to get this crew to perform.  The team has not been crippled by injuries for three straight seasons.  One terrible season is an aberration.  Three straight seasons, to me, suggests something much deeper.  

So we're left at an impasse.  Ownership apparently believes that this season is an aberration.  I, along with many other fans that apparently include those who will be protesting at Nationwide Arena on Saturday at 2PM, think otherwise.

So what does one do about it?  That's another post.  All-Star weekend will be long and, for this Blue Jackets fan, somewhat I'm sure I'll find time to share my thoughts.

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