DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 29: Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets makes a save against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on December 29, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Here's a quick pro/con list of the team's season so far. It's been a miserable year, but there are some bright spots, with reason to continue feeling hopeful that the team will one day have success.
The Jackets have a very good coach behind the bench, he's just not the guy in charge. (Todd Richards)
The team has some players who could have value at the trade deadline- Antoine Vermette, Samuel Pahlsson, Kristian Huselius, R.J. Umberger, Derick Brassard, Mark Letestu, Vinny Prospal, Fedor Tyutin and Marc Methot.
Derek Dorsett is having a career year, establishing himself as a solid third liner who can agitate and contribute offensively.
The team will have a high draft pick this summer, and there's a good chance it will be first overall.
In the minors, the team has a handful of promising wingers- Camt Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Maksim Mayorov and Tomas Kubalik. The same can be said for a pair of blueliners- David Savard and Cody Goloubef.
At the college level, T.J. Tynan is carving out a career that reminds us all of Atkinson. Tynan was also a member of Team USA at the World Juniors.
The arena cannon is easily the coolest thing in any NHL arena.
Even though the team has struggled mightily, ownership has shown a willingness to spend to the cap. Whether or not they will back off from this after this season, until then the proof is in the pudding.
The team has one of the league's top goaltending coaches. Give him some talent to work with, and he'll work his magic. Some players just can't be coached, or have reached their limit.
The team doesn't have any goaltending. WIth all due respect to Curtis Sanford, who has put together a decent campaign, he's an AHL goaltender in most organizations. We haven't seen what Mark Dekanich is capable of due to injuries, but I think it's safe to say that Steve Mason is no longer in the team's long-term plans.
Head coach Scott Arniel has been given the vote of confidence from GM Scott Howson, but something has to give. This season is on the players, but whatever he is doing to change the culture of things isn't working. His New Year's Eve comments to Columbus media showed two things- a lack of full understanding of his team's situation (you bet your ass Hitch would have known the 4-on-4 plus/minus) and he had the look and demeanor of a man defeated.
The team seemingly lacks chemistry. Every line combo imagineable has been attempted, with no success.
This one is a bit weak, but worth the mention regardless- the team hasn't had any pretty, tic-tac-toe plays. The scoring that has occured has been ugly, desperate and at times soft. Almost every goal-for this season has been of the ho-hum variety. At least a couple of times a year a true highlight-reel goal has been scored.
The breakout from the defense to forwards has been atrocious.
The defense seems to play tentatively in the neutral zone. 50/50 pucks between the blue lines always see the Columbus defense immediately shifting to reverse and backskating to prepare for a chance against. I'm not saying the blueliners should be reckless and always rush the puck, but they shouldn't open up the gap every single time when the puck is loose in the neutral zone. Take chances, close the gap!
R.J. Umberger has not been himself this season. He's scored a couple of goals, but otherwise has been a non-factor. It's been said that he is the heart of the team, and if his play has any correlation to the team's success, it's no secret the team is dead last in the NHL, and vice-versa.
Injuries and suspensions are a fact of the NHL, and they can't lead to excuses. That said, the Jackets have been hit hard. Huselius, a big part of the top six, and Nash's playmaker, has been essentially out all season. The early season suspension to James WIsniewski was ridiculous. Not only was it far too many games, but the pressue on Wiz when he returned was too much. Now that the big free agent signing is injured, it just adds to a nightmare season for him. Jeff Carter has dealt with off-and-on foot injuries himself, and is only just starting to play like we thought he could. Backup goaltender Mark Dekanich has yet to play a game, and who knows? Maybe he could have strung together some wins and the team would be in a much different position than they are now.
The overall defensive play has been ugly. The team works hard, but still loses more battles than they win. This leads to an above average amount of scoring chances against.
The psyche of the team seems as weak as a kitten. If they get down by one goal, it takes them more than a period to start lifting their heads again. I'm not sure what it would take to show the players that they are very talented and are capable of beating almost anyone when they are at their best, but the message is not being received.
This was supposed to be Marc Methot's breakout year. It's hard to judge when a shutdown blueliner is having a career year, but Methot just isn't playing at the same level he was at the second half of last season.
This post was more of an exercise to set the current state of affairs, but as you can see, the cons outweigh the pros both in quantity and quality. Feel free to add to my list in the comments below. Just remember Jacket fans- it's not all bad! Hang in there, you've been great since day one, and just think of how sweet it will be when the team finally has success on the ice.