Now I don’t about all of you, but I’ve been feelin’ a little down in the dumps about this hockey team over here, you know what I mean? I just feel like they get no respect, alright? Reminds me of the wise words of a famous comedian:
“I haven’t spoken to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.”
A common complaint among us Columbus fans is the lack of attention from the schedulers at NBC, the primary US television partner of the NHL. In recent years, the Blue Jackets have been assigned just one regular season game per season to be aired nationally on NBCSN. Last season, it was the infamous “Wednesday Night Rivalry” game against the feared, hated...Buffalo Sabres?
During the playoffs, Game 5 in Washington was aired on NBC itself. That’s the first time I can recall that the Blue Jackets ever had a game appear on a broadcast channel.
One would hope that consecutive playoff appearances and budding stars like Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones make the Jackets a more attractive choice for national games. Maybe we get TWO games this year! (I’m not holding my breath.)
“I told my psychiatrist that everyone hates me. He said I was being ridiculous - everyone hasn’t met me yet.”
It’s not just the team that doesn’t get respect, it’s the head coach. John Tortorella is the winningest US-born coach in NHL history, and won a Stanley Cup in 2004 as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, if you read comments online (and good lord, why would you), you would think he was the worst coach in the league.
His reputation was been defined not by his teams’ successes but rather his repeated outbursts: from arguments with the media in New York to a near-brawl against the entire roster and staff of the Calgary Flames.
So far in Columbus, I’ve found Torts to be a refreshingly candid and insightful interview. Mark Sheig of The Hockey Writers recently argued that the NHL could use more coaches like this. But this honesty that Torts is notorious for got him back in the headlines as he took umbrage with statements by Jack Johnson and Jim Rutherford as the former signed the latter to join the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why did Rutherford feel the need to suggest that Johnson was benched for any reason besides his play? Was it to cover for the fact that signing Johnson to a long term deal was widely panned by the hockey analytics community? But no, that didn’t make a splash, nor did Jarmo Kekalainen’s even-tempered rebuttal. It was Torts saying “shut the f*** up” that everyone talked about.
“I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.”
The lack of respect is not just from outside of Columbus. Yes, I am pointing the finger at you all, dear readers. In our player review series, we included a poll for everyone to grade each player’s season. I tallied up the results and the team average GPA was 2.56. Is a C+ appropriate for the second best team in franchise history? For a team that hung close with the eventual Stanley Cup champions? Only Panarin, Jones, and Pierre-Luc Dubois earned As.
“A girl phoned me the other day and said... ‘Come on over, there’s nobody home.’ I went over. Nobodywas home.”
This brings us to the biggest, latest, feeling of disrespect: the harsh reality that Artemi Panarin may choose to leave Columbus next summer, and that this may lead to an earlier departure (via trade). I won’t bother going into details, as we’ve covered that ad nauseam yesterday and every other day since the news broke.
It seems that many Columbus fans are taking this personally. I include myself in that. This is a team that has been growing into a competitor, and Panarin was an important addition to that. Why would he not want to be part of that? And why would he not want to stay in Columbus? This is a great place to live isn’t it?
As a free agent, he has the right to choose wherever he wants to play: whether it’s for money, or competitive reasons, or personality fit with the coach and management, or for lifestyle reasons. Many of us love living in Columbus, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. It certainly may not be what a poor kid from Russia envisioned when he dreamed of playing in America.
Panarin means no disrespect to the fans in Columbus, I’m sure. He simply doesn’t know that we’ve been down this road before. Adam Foote. Jeff Carter. Rick Nash. All were big name players who forced their way out of town by giving the front office no choice but to trade them. Foote had a plane gassed up and ready to fly him back to Colorado, even as the Jackets were still within spitting distance of their first playoff berth. Carter never wanted to be here in the first place. Rick Nash was the homegrown face of the franchise. That he wanted to leave after signing a long term deal hurt the most.
So here we are, faced once again with the prospect of losing an elite player. Faced once again with fans around the league drooling over how OUR star would fit on THEIR roster. Once again faced with the prospect of the team taking a step back before they can move forward again.
I want the rest of the league to respect the Blue Jackets franchise, and the city of Columbus as a hockey market, but as we keep facing these setbacks I feel like we struggle to respect ourselves.