Hi, we're the Columbus Blue Jackets.
We've been in the league since 2000, and have often been on the receiving end of your jokes. It's cool though, because now that we share the same division, we can show you that we're here to win, and that means beating YOU.
Bold words from a team with exactly one playoff appearance? Sure. That's ok, because we're not the punching bag of a franchise from previous years. There's a new regime in town, led by President John Davidson, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and Senior Advisor Craig Patrick. We have a coach in Todd Richards who was recently named to the Team USA staff for the 2014 Olympic Games.
On the ice, we have the reigning Vezina trophy winner. Though he'll be a bit late to the party, we also have arguably the top free agent forward from this offseason signed to a fresh deal in Nathan Horton. Let's not forget Marian Gaborik, a sniper who is about to unleash all hell after getting out from under the talent-stifling coaching of John Tortorella. (Now Vancouver's problem) The rest of our forward group features solid two-way players who are committed to a team game. Our defense is greater than the sum of its parts, with Ryan Murray-one of the top prospects in hockey-joining the unit this upcoming season.
Last season, fellow Metros, we were in the Western Conference. We finished tied for the final playoff spot with Minnesota, just missing the postseason due to a tiebreaker rule. That means that in terms of overall standings, we were the fourth-highest ranked team of the eight Metro division squads. Pittsburgh was tops with 72 points, Washington followed up with 57, the Rangers had 56, while the Jackets and Islanders had identical records, finishing with 55 points apiece. Meanwhile, Philadelphia mustered 49 points; New Jersey was right behind with 48, while Carolina brought up the rear with 42.
Had we earned just three more points last season, we would have been the second-highest ranked team among the eight new Metropolitan Division teams. So yeah, we're coming in to this season with some confidence. That, and we have an all-time winning record of 83-76-17 (and 11 ties) against the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh, we understand you're the team to beat. You have two of the top three-to-five players in the world on your roster, a Norris candidate on defense and a very good, aggressive front office. We wonder about your goaltending though- trust us, we know what untrustworthy goaltending feels like. What we don't want is to get into track meets (ie. 6-5 games) with you. We'll need to use our patented team approach to stifle your stars, and release Gabby on you to score a timely goal or two.
I have to admit, Washington, outside of Ovi you don't really scare us. You can't pick on the Southleast Division anymore; it's time to get serious. What if we neuter Ovechkin with our tenacious checking? Is Brooks Laich going to step up and spot you a hat trick every game? We all love Chimmer in Columbus, but have you guys taught him how to hit the brakes at the offensive blueline yet? He's on the cover of the "Egregious, Momentum-Sapping Offside in Ice Hockey" pamphlet handed out to all referees.
As I mentioned earlier, it's been fun for fans of the other NHL clubs to openly mock us over the years, but I know we weren't alone in receiving negative commentary. We were joined by the Islanders, who by mostly their own doing opened the door for heaping levels of criticism. In recent years we've seen the ship start to right itself, with better drafting and increased restraint in the trade market. We love watching John Tavares and Matt Moulson light it up, and you guys have some interesting young prospects on the way. Like us, the Isles are an up and coming team and as the Metropolitan division grows, the Jackets and Isles will share a common upward trajectory. Right?
I've always been force-fed the notion that the Devils "do everything right". Why then, have you driven yourselves into the ground with bad decisions? I don't need to add more salt to the still-fresh Kovalchuk wound. Losing Parise last year, mainly due to Kovy's contract, is perhaps the biggest loss your franchise could have experienced. Throw in the fact you've lost so much other talent via free agent departures and the current ownership mess, and you have a team looking for a restart. Trading for Cory Schneider is a good start, but man, the cupboard is bare in Jersey. Tell me, why didn't you forfeit last year's first rounder, instead choosing to give up next year's, which in all likelihood will be a lottery pick? Just bananas.
Carolina- there are few common threads between our squads. There's nothing there geographically, there's limited to no prior transactions between the teams, and there are no significant CBJ alumni (hero or villain) to grab our attention. Do you guys have a main rival? Given that there is no reason whatsoever for us to be rivals, what say we start our own rivalry? Hey ‘Canes- eat $#!%!
Hi Philly! Some of the grandest mockery levelled in our direction was straight from you fine folks. This was all pre-Bob of course, the transaction that marked the moment when the proverbial worm began to turn. Granted, you guys stole Jake from us in the Carter fiasco, but I think Bobrovsky winning the Vezina more than softened the blow. What's even more hilarious is that you actually gave us something for Steve Mason months later, and in typical Philly fashion, you're even giving him the keys to the bus! Unless of course you think Emery wasn't the biggest mirage last season? I'm really looking forward to playing you guys this year.
Finally, New York. There's no introductions necessary here, we're well acquainted. I suppose you never heard of the mess we had on our hands when Nash, Brassard, Dorsett, Stralman, Moore and Johnson were all Blue Jackets? There's a reason we traded these guys. It was a bad formula. If we weren't in the same division, I'd wish you all the best with our excess, but now that we have to face you, I can't wait to see what happens on the ice. Listen, Nasher was our top guy for a very long time, but that's the problem- he's not wired to be the top guy. He needs to be a very good number two, riding shotgun to a guy who has the chops to be the team leader on and off the ice. Why do you think he excels on the Canadian National Team? How about when he was Joe Thornton's co-pilot in Davos? Either way, I think even though I lobbed a shot across Carolina's bow, we have the making of a serious, bloodthirsty rivalry.
This post has been entirely in jest, of course. We're the new guy, and while we're more than just happy to be here, we have the utmost respect for our new division mates. The Metropolitan Division, on paper anyway, looks to be an incredibly competitive, exciting division and I look forward to the Jackets forging new rivalries with their new division mates.