It's the eve of Christmas Eve, and all of those traditional signs of the season are evident. Christmas trees adorn front windows. Christmas lights shine on houses and businesses. Shoppers are cross-checking each other at Easton. It really warms the heart . . . In fact, it puts me in such a Christmas mood that I'm going to play Santa for the day.
During our recent sojourn in the Southern Hemisphere, we managed to keep tabs on the Blue Jackets' activities -- and the fan reactions thereto -- as well as the more general rumblings in the world of NHL pundits. This was never in real time, due to the 18 hour time difference, but the picture it painted was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas portrait. Maybe a Tim Burton Christmas portrait, but definitely not Rockwell.
Well, whether at the North Pole or South Pole, Santa knows when you've been naughty or nice, and also knows just what is needed to bring smiles to the faces of true believers, young and old, including players, fans, coaches and general managers. So, as I load my sack and get ready to stuff this aging body down the chimneys, here are the things I'm bringing to all of the good members of Blue Jackets Nation:
To The Entire Roster:
First and foremost, an amnesia-inducing potion that enables the player to forget the last mistake, but still learn from it. (Some may refer to this by names such as Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker). Ever since the horrific start, the club has been psychologically struggling to gain a foothold, and every mistake is compounded in their individual and collective brains. They need the memory of NFL cornerbacks -- in other words, none. Understand your mistake, then move on. You can't be effective dwelling on past mistakes -- or fearing the next one.
Second, a copy of Christmas Vacation, simply because you need to be silly and laugh from time to time.
Finally, a copy of Miracle, to remind you that anything is possible through teamwork and dedication. Also, Herb Brooks makes John Tortorella look like Elf.
To John Davidson & Jarmo Kekäläinen:
First, a large bottle of patience. (May also go by the assumed names referenced above). While the temptation to make a deal -- any deal -- may be sorely tempting, if only to shake things up, don't do it. Don't turn away from a legitimately good hockey deal, but don't abandon the "brick by brick" mantra either. Sure, there have been mistakes made, and some guys underperforming, but the road to the top is not a straight one. Specifically, remember that Ryan Johansen is just 23 years old. I was an idiot at 23 (and some would argue I've had a relapse), and I was far from alone. Yes, he is immature, pouty and woefully inconsistent. Count to twenty, let Tortorella work with him, and don't pull the trigger on a deal unless and until you are convinced that a) the deal is a significant improvement for the club and b) Johansen is unsalvageable. Deal from strength, not necessity. He has 1.5 seasons left on his existing deal, and another full year of RFA status. Don't forget that you have the leverage.
Next, a light saber for each of you, as a reminder that The Force can be channeled for defense as well as offense. Beef up the blue line, you must.
Finally, a copy of Miracle, to remind you that it is not necessarily the best players, but the right players, that make a club click.
To Ryan Johansen:
First, a pair of big boy pants to try on and get comfortable in. You're 23 years old, making millions of dollars playing a game you love, and have all of the potential in the world. Time to grow up, stop pouting, take responsibility and play hockey. The All Star Game and winning streaks are great, but the hallmark of a professional is how he handles adversity and the ability to step up front and lead the club out of the darkness. Everyone wants you to succeed -- fans, teammates, coaches and front office. Don't blow it by thinking that you are above the fray. Embrace the challenge.
Next, an extra dose of that amnesia-inducing potion, and cancellation of your Twitter, Facebook, Four Square, Instagram and any other social media accounts you may have. You don't need to occupy yourself with the opinions of others or the vultures circling over a possible trade. Clear your mind, listen to your coaches, and play hockey. Get that hesitation out of your game -- let the puck loose . .. hard. Good things will happen.
Finally, another copy of Miracle, to remind you that this is about the name on the front, not the name on the back, and that the problems you think you have pale in comparison to those that Jim Craig faced. Also to remind you that John Tortorella is not the Great Satan.
To John Tortorella:
First, you too get an extra bottle of that patience potion. You've done really well with that whole temper thing, have treated the media well and are off to a great start. Santa knows this whole thing is more difficult than you might have anticipated, so stay the course.
Next, an extra large Sharpie. This is to be used to fill out your lineup card in indelible ink, forcing you to keep the same lines and pairings for one entire game. Just try it . . . you might like it.
A pocket sized photograph of the Stanley Cup you won in Tampa, just to enable you to keep your eye on the prize.
Finally, your own personal copy of Miracle, to remind you of the demons that Herb Brooks chased and that your roster is made up mostly of kids. Also, to remind you that you're not nearly the jerk that Brooks was.
To The Fans:
No, Santa is not bringing you any amnesia or patience potion. I've seen what you're like when you're drunk, and it is just not pretty. Grit your teeth and deal with it.
Instead, Santa is giving you copies of a few little-known books to learn from. These include Chicago Cubs World Series Championships since World War I, The Toronto Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup Victories in an NHL Larger Than Six Teams and The City of Atlanta's Guide to Successful Professional Hockey. Stop the pity party, you've got a team that has more talent than ever, a better organization than ever, and a boatful of prospects.
Next, a membership in Alcoholics Anonymous. As noted above, many of you need it, and it will teach you that expectations are just premeditated resentments. There are no guarantees in professional sports. Look at the wreckage that is my fantasy team if you want proof.
A copy of Miracle, to remind you that hockey is a great, great game, and that hard work, inspiration and a bit of luck can combine to bring joyous results.
A copy of Miracle on 34th Street, because it is Christmas, sometimes you just have to believe, and you can never have too many Miracles.
That's it from Santa this year. Be good, believe in miracles, and even better things might fill your stockings next year. In the meantime, a Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us at The Cannon. Have a safe and wonderful holiday! Stay tuned.