Every season, man. They do this every. season.
There is always something to be hopeful about as a Columbus Blue Jackets fan. A new team with a splashy arena as the city entered the world of the four major professional sports. New coaches. New players. Promising draft picks. A new front office. The NHL Draft.
The All-Star Game. The All-Star Game.
Seemingly every season, there are new little nuggets of hope. "This is the year! We're going to over take Pittsburgh now that we're in the East! Travel will be so much better and the players will be fresh!" We find something. We are told the team will not be outworked. We hear about these new players acquired via trade or free agency. We, perhaps, even "buy in" as preseason gets underway.
They always disappoint.
If you have been a fan of the team from the beginning, you have transformed from just happy to have the NHL in your city and a team to follow, to learning that this franchise is a long way away from winning a Cup, to probably frustrated and disgruntled as the team never seems to get it together.
Here we are again. A familiar feeling with more than 50 games to play out this season. The backbone of the team, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, is on the shelf for likely the rest of 2015. There will be roughly 43 games left in the season when he returns. The Jackets have been dead last or just slightly better the entire season so far.
What hope do you have as a fan going forward?
This team is up against the cap as it is. Ownership is spending nearly as much money as allowed under the CBA. The front office brought in "their coach" after inheriting Todd Richards a few seasons ago. Their draft picks are starting to play more, too.
If you are looking for positives, I guess it's time to see Joonas Korpisalo in action at the NHL level. It couldn't possibly go any worse in North America than it did for that other goaltender they drafted in 2012, right? Korpisalo should see at least a few games in the coming weeks.
The team also sits in good position for a top draft pick. Oh, but of course changes are coming to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.
This is just old hat for Jackets fans, though. The team was actually able to draw well over 17,000 fans per game in its first four seasons, despite never earning more than 71 points in any of those years (Conference finishes: 13th, 15th, 15th, and 14th). Heck, Columbus even drew nearly 16.8K fans per game in the season after the lockout.
Fewer and fewer fans came through the gates, though, as the losses continued to pile up. There was a brief bump thanks to the first ever playoff berth in team history in 2009, where they were promptly swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
Through 11 home games, the Blue Jackets are averaging their worst home attendance since 2010-2011. Fans are getting tired of paying to watch a perennial loser. This is the franchise's 15th season on the ice. They have never been close to a divisional title. Or even home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They've never had a clinching opportunity in the first round of the playoffs.
Where this team is now on its build of bricks only time will tell. This was supposed to be a different year. Former Stanley Cup champs, four lines deep with the deepest pool of forwards in franchise history. It hasn't panned out and now the new coach is searching for answers, trying to push the team to be consistent game in and game out. They are "developing habits."
Maybe you are frustrated again. From the sounds of it, most fans are apathetic to the whole thing. I'm a Blue Jackets fan, it wasn't going to work out anyway. I guess it's possible this team flips a switch and finishes up 33-14-5. More than likely, they will flounder for a bit and then Bob will come back and carry the team to a meaningless win streak in March. You've seen this movie before.
In previous seasons, maybe we'd be more upset. Maybe we'd be more dumbfounded how a roster with so much supposed talent could perform so poorly or be so inconsistent. Heck, maybe there would even be fan get-togethers/protests outside Nationwide Arena like we saw before.
But you've seen this before. You knew it was coming, didn't you? We are all Charlie Brown, in some sense. We finally might get to kick the football, right?
No. This team is Lucy. There is always some sort of tease, only for the ball to be taken away, ending with us on our backs.
I would be more upset, had I not fallen on my back so many times before. The surprise of missing out on the ball is gone. It is more or less just an expectation now.
So we will soldier on, together. We will try to find silver linings and make jokes or drinking games. We will throw out trade proposals which may or may not happen at the trade deadline. We will armchair-GM the roster for next season. We will research the top players for the draft (maybe you have already started) and debate who the team should select.
And then we will build up hope in the spring and summer, finding reasons to be optimistic about the next season. And we'll start over again.
Because of course we will. We're Blue Jackets fans.