Let me paint a picture for you:
Somehow, the Blue Jackets are in the Stanley Cup playoffs, year after year - four years in a row right now, to be exact. As far as I know, and correct me if I'm wrong: the only way a team gets to be in the playoffs is through racking up points by winning regular-season games. Hold onto that piece of logic; it’s going to be relevant throughout the rest of this article.
Okay, so the Blue Jackets are in the playoffs. But they’re going to get picked off right away by whomever they play first, right? From what I’ve heard, the Blue Jackets aren’t a good team - they don’t have the offensive consistency needed to score or the defensive strength needed to hold [insert team here]’s unstoppable offense at bay. Nor do they have a dependable starting goalie or any kind of depth in their goaltending roster, should someone get injured.
But wait, what the heck? The Jackets SWEPT the team that was projected to win the Stanley Cup! The blue collar team out of podunk Columbus, Ohio shut down the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning, who was projected to win the whole thing last year. But how?! Obviously, it had to be the trio of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene, right? As soon as those guys are out of there, Columbus is back to square one and can’t be expected to make another legitimate playoff run for awhile.
Alright, well, they somehow got into this year’s playoffs too, which no one could have seen coming except for that they’ve done it the previous three seasons - but the Toronto Maple Leafs should make easy work of them with their $40 million offensive line, right? Notwithstanding the fact that the teams entered the round robin with nearly identical regular season records, it still had that familiar “given” feel that Toronto should have the easy win.
What ended up happening, for those unfamiliar with the situation, is that Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and the rest of the Leafs franchise are all added to the list of people excised from the bubble, sitting at home, scratching their heads and wondering how they could have possibly been bamboozled by the Blue Jackets - a team that consistently does this again and again to their opponents.
Whew, okay, I have to drop the sarcasm, it’s exhausting me and I’m pretty sure everyone knows where I’m heading with this.
Listen. In the spirit of the 2019 Columbus Blue Jackets playoff slogan, “It’s Time.” It’s time to deconstruct any pre-conceived notions you have surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s time to stop attributing their past successes to players who are watching the rest of the 2020 playoffs from their couches in houses that have garages - a scarcity in Columbus, allegedly. It’s time to look at the Columbus Blue Jackets and see them for what they are - a damn good team that shouldn’t surprise anyone when they win games.
Sure, they don’t always make it look easy. As evidenced by their quintuple overtime game on Tuesday night, sometimes they make it really, really hard. Their game isn’t flashy, their wins aren’t always pretty. We know not to regularly ask for between-the-legs dime pieces from Alexander freaking Wennberg, but when it happens, it’s extra sweet - we understand that we shouldn’t be looking a gift Swede in the mouth.
Honestly, the snake-in-the-grass approach deployed by the Columbus Blue Jackets has been enormously helpful - even though it’s not on purpose, and has only snowballed as a result from false conceptions formed around the league.
Somehow, opponents and non-Blue Jackets NHL fans look at our roster and their eyes gloss right over names like Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, David Savard and Cam Atkinson.
Critics characterize Nick Foligno as an old has-been instead of someone who is perfectly capable of kicking ass and taking names, game after game.
Pundits have the gumption to slander Seth Jones’ ability and presence on the ice - his numbers are “bad,” despite skating circles around his counterparts in a record-setting deadlocked 65 minute TOI game - not to mention him saying “I feel fine” afterwards.
Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikens are written off as green or as inconsistent instead of as elite goaltenders who stun opponents with shutouts in games when it matters most.
Youngsters like Liam Foudy, Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom, and Vladislav Gavrikov don’t trip any alarms until it’s too late and they’ve snuck a puck in the back of the net.
Basically, people glance at our roster and don’t see any star-powered names, not realizing that the sum of all of the parts is what makes the Blue Jackets larger than life.
My message to the rest of the league is this: go right on ahead and keep underestimating the Columbus Blue Jackets. We can’t wait to see where that gets you.