No, I haven't given up on the Jackets making the playoffs, but if they do go, it will be something just short of a miracle. Yet, I've been thinking, whether the Jackets go to the play-offs or not, it's been a fantastic season to be a CBJ fan and there are some people we need to thank. So, in no particular order, I would like to thank:
1 - Scott Howson. Yes, Howson. With the exception of Marian Gaborik, Blake Comaeu and Micheal Leighton, this is a team he built. So, while he did make enough mistakes to warrant being fired, he did do a competent enough job in bringing these particular players together.
2 - Sergei Bobrovsky. While some of us were willing to give Bob the benefit of the doubt, no one could have foreseen the season he's had. While he still has some flaws in his game, overall, he's been the #1 goalie the Jackets have sought since Day One. Here's hoping that he doesn't pull a Mason and start playing like he's never seen a puck next year.
3 - Todd Richards and the coaches. Let's face it, with the exceptions of Dubie, AA, Erixson, Aucoin and Bob, they started the year with, essentially, the same team Arniel had last year. Yet the difference in results is obvious. A good portion of that change has to come from the coaching staff. A better game plan, more input to the players, better motivation and working on the basics equal better results.
4 - Jack Johnson and Vinny Prospal. I don't think that it's coincidence that the attitude in the locker room changed dramatically after Johnson arrived and Vinny became more vocal. While there's been no named captain, this year, JMFJ and Vinny are, it seems to me, the de facto co-captains on this team and responsible, to a large degree, for the improved work ethic.
5 - JD and Jarmo. From the moment JD joined the team there's been a different attitude from the front office. While, yes, talent and hard work are essential for any athlete at a major league level, psychology also plays a large part in how that athlete performs. When you know the front office wants to win and has a plan, that effects your attitude. JD made it clear, from his first day, that he intends to build a winner and has a plan. Hiring Jarmo was a part of that plan. But the final demonstration of the new attitude in the front office was the rubber stamping of the trade for Gaby. Play-offs or no this year, that one trade made it clear to the players, the fans and the league that JD, Jarmo and the entire front office are dedicated to ending years of futility and frustration.
6 - J. P. McConnell. Let's face it, it's his money being spent on the Jackets. None of the above could have happened had not Mr. McConnell been willing to drop the cash to make it happen.
7 - Every player who has pulled on a Jackets sweater this year, for obvious reasons.
Finally, I would like to add a personal thanks. To Mike, Andy, Matt, Dan P., every person making a comment in this blog and anyone on The Cannon staff whom I have forgotten. I've enjoyed hockey since I was a kid. But I've always been a "follow my home team and barely pay attention to the rest of the league" fan. Since I began reading this blog, I have learned more about the "second tier" players, the league and the game than in all the years I followed hockey prior to finding this blog. You guys are great and I look forward to more years of enjoying the back and forth presented here.