Every Tuesday, WFNY’s The 5-Hole brings you up to date with the goings-on of the CBJ…
The Week That Was
Tuesday, 3/22 in Denver – Avalanche 5, Blue Jackets 4 – SO – (box) – Highlights
Thursday, 3/24 in Phoenix – Coyotes 3, Blue Jackets 0 – (box) – Highlights
Sunday, 3/27 in Columbus – Canucks 4, Blue Jackets 1 – (box) – Highlights
It’s been rough. The Jackets have been shutout three times over their last six games, and only a late goal against Vancouver on Sunday kept it from being four times out of six. Simply put: the Jackets can NOT score with any regularity right now. Each mistake they make seems to be magnified, as each goal they give up makes the hill that much tougher to climb for the offense. This is a huge area of concern for the off-season.
Likewise, the Jackets’ Power Play is back in the doldrums, having gone scoreless over their last nine games on the man advantage (0-for-33 and counting). When they were playing well in late January and February, the Power Play was clicking. It has vanished again. Add effective PP help to the list of needs.
In fact, the biggest needs for this team are offensive finishing skill, consistent goal-tending, and an effective defensive corps that can contribute offensively. In other words, just about everything. We’ll break it down a bit more once the season has ended.
The Jackets have four of their last seven games this week, starting tonight at home aginst Florida (29-36-11, 69pts). They then head to Washington (44-22-10, 98pts) on Thursday, and then come back home for two games over the weekend. Chicago (41-26-8, 90pts) comes calling on Friday night, and St. Louis (34-32-9, 77pts) comes in on Sunday.
Follow me tonight from the press box @WFNYDP for the Jackets vs. Panthers!
By The Numbers
Let’s take a quick look at the Jackets by the numbers, through 75 games:
2.61 gpg (22nd NHL)
2.97 gapg (24th NHL)
13.9% (28th NHL)
80.8% (21st NHL)
Rick Nash – 32
Rick Nash – 34
Rick Nash – 66
Steve Mason – 23
Mathieu Garon – 2.73
Steve Mason – 90.3%
The team is still without winger Kristian Huselius, defenseman Anton Stralman, forward Andrew Murray, and forward Chris Clark. With seven games to go and nothing to play for, it would be crazy to rush anyone back. Huselius and Stralman are practicing with red no-contact sweaters, but who knows if they’re going to play in the last seven games.
Quote of the Week
One thing Scott Arniel has been good for all season is great quotes. This one is no exception. When asked about the notion of calling up players from AHL Springfield over the last two weeks, Arniel did not disappoint:
I’m kind of caught on the fence on that one. [It's] a little bit of the guys that are here are the ones who got us into this mess and they are the ones who have to finish it off. The other side (of it) is do we want to have to some guys play some games that could help us next year?
–Coach Scott Arniel
What’s great about this quote is his willingness to let the players know that it’s on them. his use of the word “mess” is brilliant.
…With a Little Help from My Friends
We go back one more time to The Hockey Writers’ Rick Gethin, continues on Scottie Upshall::
Frustrating, disappointing and fed up. The feeling within the Columbus Blue Jackets fanbase runs the gamut from A-Z. But, these are also terms heard from the players within the dressing room after a season that started with promise and is now ending on a lackluster note. They don’t want to make excuses for their play, nor should they. They do, however, believe that the beginnings of a good thing are happening. Gone are the days of a P.T. Barnum GM in Doug MacLean, leaving an oil slick in his wake. In his place is a shrewd ninja in GM Scott Howson, who has taken the steps to soak up that oil.
There are no perfect General Managers in the NHL, and Scott Howson is no exception. But, he’s made many more positive moves than negative. While it’s easy for the fans to say “why doesn’t he make a trade or sign so and so player”, Howson has shown that he has the best long-term interests of the organization at heart. He’s stated publically that he won’t make a move just for the sake of making a move, it has to make sense. One must also remember that a Free Agent player, for the most part, has to want to play in Columbus for him to sign a contract. In regards to trading, it takes two (count them… two) General Managers to Tango.
There is no “magic pill” or “easy button” that will make this team into a Stanley Cup contender overnight. It just does not happen that way in the NHL. It takes multiple seasons and the right mix of players. Scott Arniel has one year under his belt with all of the trials and tribulations that came with this club. He now knows what he has and knows what he still needs to do.
No one is happy with the results of the last two years. Mediocre is not acceptable, nor should it ever be. Winning teams don’t just happen, they are built from within. Scott Howson and Scott Arniel are the two guys who can make this happen.
Rick takes a glass-half-full approach, which is one that I share for the most part. But, time is running out on the “patience, we’re building for the future!” meme. One more season finishing in the bottom three of the conference, and it will be time to consider another direction.