This week’s theme at SB Nation is underdogs. The concept is one of the most popular in sports: everyone loves to see it when an athlete or team overcomes great obstacles or overwhelming odds to achieve success. Think of Leicester City coming out of nowhere to win the Premier League. Or University of Maryland - Baltimore County becoming the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.
I’d argue that no franchise better suits the “underdog” label in the NHL than our very own Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus had little hockey history to speak of prior to 2000 (all due respect to the Chill, of course). Even after significant growth in the last quarter century, we remain one of the smallest markets in the league (34th largest TV market in the US, below Hartford/New Haven and above Milwaukee). The Jackets were forced to come into the league at the same time as Minnesota, so they had to split talent from an already-diluted pool of players. This is not a market or franchise that stars dreaming of playing for.
Still, despite those hurdles, the Jackets have managed to find success in recent years. Youth and amateur hockey participation is booming. Attendance is up and overall fan enthusiasm is noticeably more present around the city. On the ice, the Jackets are the seventh best team over the last four years, by standings points (384, behind Tampa Bay, Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and St. Louis).
Of course, like any great underdog story, they have a signature win to show for it. Last spring was not the first time that a President’s Trophy winner had been eliminated in the first round, but it was the first time one had been swept. More importantly, that Lightning team was tied for the winningest in NHL history. They weren’t just good; they were great. And they got absolutely dominated.
That Jackets team was better than most 8 seeds, sure, and stars like Seth Jones and Matt Duchene lived up to their status as top 5 draftees. Josh Anderson, however, was a fourth round pick. Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky were both undrafted out of Russia. Undersized sixth round draft pick Cam Atkinson matched former #1 overall pick Rick Nash for the franchise season goal record (41).
Stay tuned all week as we discuss players and moments of underdogs in CBJ history.
The week that was
SB Nation’s theme was What If? I looked back at drafts by Doug Maclean, and then Scott Howson and Jarmo Kekalainen to see who else they could have chosen instead.
Will wondered what would have happened if Rick Nash had never been traded.
Elaine considered a few what-ifs based on the Columbus/Cleveland affiliate partnership.
Speaking of the AHL, they have officially canceled the remainder of their season. The 2020-21 season may be in jeopardy as well. The league is heavily dependent on revenue from ticket sales, so they may not be able to afford to play without fans like the NHL can.
On the Cannon Cast, Will and Elaine visited with Blue Jackets public address announcer Greg Murray. It’s an entertaining hour of stories from his 20 years working for the team. He’s never missed a game!
Fox Sports Ohio will be replaying the 2015 All-Star Game - hosted by Columbus! - on Friday and Saturday.
Cam Atkinson is hosting a virtual 5K to raise money for charity. Check it out:
Very excited to team up with @OhioHealth for the @forcenetworkfnd Virtual 5K. Please go to https://t.co/c3use3Tp7m to sign up or donate! #FNF5K #GiveEmHealth pic.twitter.com/IIydhmj7gg— Cam Atkinson (@CamAtkinson13) May 15, 2020
Former Cannon Cast guests Alison Lukan and Jeff Svoboda are having a friendly wager related to that race:
Who will run a faster race for the #FNF5K me or @JacketsInsider? Get your bets in...there’s a lot of pride-and more importantly support for a good cause!-on the line. Details in the video pic.twitter.com/vl8DmTPhE7— Alison (@AlisonL) May 12, 2020
Ok, this is nothing but wonderful and adorable:
#CBJ captain @NickFoligno jumps in the broadcasting booth alongside some (adorable) color commentators to call his gorgeous between-the-legs goal against Philly!#CBJ | @ScottsLawn pic.twitter.com/Go1nMPnhUz— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) May 11, 2020
Some encouraging news for those who want to see the NHL season resume:
Sources indicate the Return To Play Committee has talked throughout the weekend, NHL-NHLPA making progress on a 24-team format. Sources also stressing there's still work to be done, but clearly the weekend has produced some traction. More talks expected over next day or two.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 17, 2020
I think the 24 team format is the best option. It’s certainly the best for the Blue Jackets.
Play me out
The Last Dance ended its five week, ten episode run last night. It was a fascinating look back at the career of Michael Jordan and the great dynasty of the 1990s Chicago Bulls. They kind of glossed over this part, but I think we can’t ever forget that at one point the best, most famous athlete in the world where he teamed up with cartoon characters to battle alien monsters who had stolen the basketball skills of four greats and also Shawn Bradley for some reason.