Like most CBJ fans during the off-season, I look for any Blue Jackets news and predictions I can find to help get me through the summer. (Did we mention there's less than a week to go until CannonFest? No? Well, consider it done.)
Today, I was pleased to see that it was the Jackets' turn in NHL.com's 30 in 30 look around the leauge, and a little surprised to see the team show up in the #14 position in The Hockey News' 2010-2011 season preview.
One of these articles was a well thought out look at the CBJ offseason, the Arniel hiring, and the need for players like Nash, Stralman, Filatov, and others to step up.
The other was written by The Hockey News.
Yes, the team struggled last year. Yes, Steve Mason had a terrible season. Yes, the team was a nightmare defensively.
But what about the massive improvements the team made after the Olympic break? Why are they claiming the team needs goal scoring when the team was 20th (not great, but not terrible) in Goals-For, and finished the year with the leauge's 14th best Power Play at 18.2%? Anyone who saw the team get into 6-5 or 5-4 track meet games will tell you that putting pucks in the net wasn't really a problem compared to keeping them out. Why no mention of the hiring of Scott Arniel and the coaching overhaul?
Is it lazy reporting? Or is it a greater problem where hockey pundits tend to see the team's failures without looking at the successes?
Let's have a bit of a thought experiment: I'm going to describe a team. Tell me who you think I'm talking about.
Despite their captain being regarded as one of the league's top forwards, and a promising youth movement due to several lottery picks over the last 5 years, this team missed the playoffs last season due to problems with their defense and shaky goaltending. In the offseason, they have replaced their coach with a well regarded, younger head coach from the AHL and a new associate coaching staff, and are expected to use a new defensive and offensive scheme.
So, am I talking about the Blue Jackets? No. I'm talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning, who seem to be this offseason's darling team - picked by many pundits challenge Washington for the Southeast division crown.
Yet, are the offseason moves made by the Lightning so different from Columbus? Why is one team heralded and the other discarded?
Certainly, yes, the Eastern Conference is generally "weaker" than the West, and the Southeast division is, on paper, an easier division (though I do expect it to be more competitive that most expect, given the improvements made by Tampa and Atlanta), but I really wonder if the Jackets are being undervalued because of their lack of success in the past.