Were the Blue Jackets Prepared?
How can a team that seemed to show so many positive signs in the pre-season start the regular season 0-3-1? How can this team, with more skill than any previous Blue Jackets roster, be the first group in franchise history to start the season with four straight losses? How hard is it to score a power play goal?
There are a lot of questions early on this season, some warranted, some not. As many have made clear - it's still very early. But that doesn't mean coach Scott Arniel and GM Scott Howson aren't looking at each and every one of these issues with a very critical eye.
The chemistry will come, that's the least of my concerns. Todd Richards will continue to implement his teachings for the power play to help better utilize the talents of Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and company. There isn't a single forward line or defensive pairing that hasn't seen some adjustment from last year.
What I find more concerning and a little frustrating are individuals, those who shouldn't necessarily be playing as poorly as they have so far.
Kris Russell opened the season with quite possibly the worst game I've ever seen him play. He was promptly benched the next night. He responded well in game 3, but at some point the team will have to see more than just "potential" from Russell.
R.J. Umberger can't buy a goal. As can be expected, he never stops hustling. The puck just continues to not bounce his way. The good news for R.J. is that once they start rolling his way, the points should come in bunches. You just have to hope it doesn't get to the point of being a mental game that he's busy playing.
The rest of the defense aside from Grant Clitsome haven't really impressed so far. Fedor Tyutin had an incredible pre-season, and although he hasn't played poorly, he has faded into the background. The same can be said for Radek Martinek.
I have to wonder how prepared some of these individuals were for the season, and by extension, how well Arniel's training camp helped them develop as a team.
The good news:
James Wisniewski is halfway through his suspension. The sooner he gets back, the quicker the true d-pairings will shake out and players can start to settle into their position.
With the majority of the team playing mediocre hockey at best, when things start to click, which they inevitably will, it will be at a more critical point in the season. The team has to be careful to not dig a hole too big, but as we all saw last season, winning early doesn't mean anything.
Nash and Carter have looked a little more comfortable together with every game. Vinny Prospal is someone I wish we could have had on this team for years. I love his energy and enthusiasm.
In the end, I just hope the bad doesn't continue to outweigh the good for too long. Right now it's putting unnecessary stress on Steve Mason. The quicker the team starts playing better in front of him, the sooner he can start focusing on himself. Right now I think he's too concerned with sloppy defense and not enough goal scoring.
But I have to ask: How did all of these issues get masked during the pre-season?