Thursday, January 16, 2020

We Had A Perfectly Good Rubber Chicken Hanging in the Captain's Locker...

Elvis Merzlikens at the 2014 Development Camp
Tonight Carolina spoiled the old rubber chicken gag for a guy who can't score goals, when the Captain, Nick Foligno, potted the winner late in the third period.  It's been a career drought for Nick, but other than putting the puck in the net, he has been playing like a leader and a Captain, as the Blue Jackets continue their improbable climb up the standings. 

But tonight, let's think about the rubber chicken.  Back on the streets after all this time gainfully employed, and now what?  The late game winning goal undoing all that a rubber chicken can build.  It's kind of sobering, if you are in to stupid analogies. 

On the other hand, the Jackets skated away with a regulation win after a second period that Coach John Tortorella had a hard time describing in polite terms ($25k on the line every time till next December).  This is Blue Jackets Hockey the rest of the way, and the game delivered what you could have predicted with Carolina in town.  The sound of sticks clashing as both teams contested every move on the ice was palpable.  If we end up playing Carolina in the playoffs, it will be the first team to 14 goals advances.  I mean that with respect to the Carolina players and coaches.  Last year we played differently with different objectives.  This year, both teams are playing the same style of hockey, and these are highly competitive games.

I've got to tell you that as a fan, I have really enjoyed this season.  It is a radically different ride than last year, but on the other hand, we don't know that we will make it in.  So every game has that edge of trying to make the playoffs, compared to last year's expectation that we would make the playoffs.  In order to ratchet up this year's degree of difficulty, we have suffered a slew of injuries comparable to 2009-10, but instead of tumbling out of competition, our organizational depth has instead propelled us into playoff contention.  It is important to note that preseason, the CBJ organizational depth was rated very poorly, in what I thought was a pretty fair evaluation.  However, on the NHL stage, these players have solidified the definition of 'Blue Jackets Hockey', and reeled off a string of wins to propel the NHL team to playoff contention.  While the Calder Cup was a fantastic achievement for the Lake Erie Monsters, the string of games turned in by Messrs Stenlund, Gerbe, Peeke, MacInnis, and Lilja have to be the finest hour of the Cleveland Monsters.  In my opinion, the experience gained by these players (except the veteran Gerbe) will reverberate through the organization for years. 

Ironically, after losing all of the big names to free agency last year, this is a great time to be a Blue Jackets fan.  We are going to be in a race to the wire, to see if we make the playoffs.  Maybe we will, and maybe we won't, but as a season ticket holder and fan, these are the seasons you really enjoy.  I recommend jumping on the bandwagon, and riding it out to see where we take it.  There is only one guarantee.  It will be a lot of fun!