08 April 2007 by Published in: General musings 16 comments

My regular readers know that I am a hockey nut. Susan and I made it to nearly half of the home games of our local NHL team this year. Watching NHL hockey is one of my favorite things to do in the world, and I just love watching it live.

Last night marked the end of the sixth season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. When the Jackets entered the league for the 2000-2001 season, they entered with another new team, the Minnesota Wild. Two years earlier, the Nashville Predators and the Atlanta Thrashers entered the NHL as expansion teams.

This year, the Wild finished 48-26-8, for 104 points and a playoff slot. The Predators finished 51-23-8, for 110 points and a second place finish in their division (which happens to be the same division as the Blue Jackets). The Thrashers finished 43-28-11 for 97 points, but they won their division. Not bad for three teams less than ten years old.

Our Blue Jackets, by comparison, finished 33-42-7, for 73 points. They finished fourth in a five team division, a scant two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks. They set an NHL single-season record for futility by being shut out 16 times. They had two players with twenty or more goals; the Anaheim Ducks (last night’s opponent) had five, including Teemu Salanne, who netted 48 goals this year and two last night. Last year, the Blue Jackets won 35 games and put up 74 points, meaning that they actually backslid this year instead of moving forward. They are the ONLY team in the NHL to have never made the Stanley Cup playoffs. Columnist Michael Arace’s piece in today’s issue of the Columbus Dispatch made the following point:

The Blue Jackets were 104-173-51 over their first four seasons. Then came the lockout. When it was over, there was a glorious opportunity to reform the team, create a winner and seize upon a new wave of support. The support was there; the victories were not. The Jackets were 35-43-4 last season.

They finished 33-42-7 this season.

They are 172-258-62 in their history.

They have built through the draft, signed veterans in an effort to win immediately and have rebuilt. They have done everything and hence nothing. They’ve steered themselves down the middle into mediocrity, or worse, rather than defining a clear course and sticking to it.

Pretty pathetic. The blame for this mess properly sits on the shoulders of one person, the team’s president and general manager, Doug MacLean. And it’s time for MacLean to go. The successes of the other expansion teams in a short period of time demonstrate that it can be done. There’s only one reason why it hasn’t happened here: atrocious management at the top. MacLean needs to go. If he doesn’t go, I will not attend a single game next year in protest.

And so it goes. The Philadelphia Flyers, for the first time in the 41 year history of the franchise, had the worst record in the NHL. This means that my two favorite teams are done for the season. It means that I have nobody to root for in the playoffs, so this year’s choice, in spite of Sidney Crosby’s incessant whining, will be the Pittsburgh Penguins. I hope they go far into the playoffs to help restore support for hockey in Pittsburgh, which has been a difficult relationship at best, and also to demonstrate just how far a team can go in just two years; two years ago, before drafting Crosby and Evgeny Malkin, the Pens were dead last in their division.

If a team with the oldest and worst arena in the game can do it, the Blue Jackets can, too. However, it will require dramatic changes in the top management of the company for it to happen. Let’s hope that team owner John H. McConnell does the right thing and drops the ax on MacLean quickly and hires someone to right this floundering franchise before it dies.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Eric,

    Hailing from Chicago I feel your pain, but have little sympathy. Even getting into the playoffs has been few and far between these last 12 years! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mike

  2. Don
    Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Eric,
    We find ourselves on opposite sides at last, as I’m a big Ottawa Senators fan. Should be a great series!

  3. Paul Taylor
    Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Eric,

    Sounds like your boyz are being led by the hockey equivalent of Braxton Bragg.

    Here’s your solution: You live close enough to Motown to declare yourself a Red Wings fan. ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ll have much less personal pain and agony plus, you’ll see more aggressive and firm front office dealings… kinda like serving under or watching an “Uncle Billy” Sherman.

    Paul

  4. Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Paul,

    Nice idea, but it will never, ever happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

    That would be like me rooting for the Yankees, and there is precisely a zero percent chance of that ever occurring. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eric

  5. Steve Basic
    Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Eric,

    MacLean should be canned, and know I would do it before the next NHL Draft. The team does have a few chips that can be built around, and will get yet another high draft choice this year.

    As you know, I watched a lot of their games here via the NHL Center Ice Package, and it is unreal they could be shut out that many times.

    There is great fan support and atmosphere in that arena, and you will have Hitchcock as coach for a full season next year. Hell you can hang on this laurel as well, as they always seem to beat my team the Rangers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  6. Sun 08th Apr 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Steve,

    I suspect the ax will fall in the next couple of weeks so that a new GM has plenty of time to prepare for the draft. The draft is being held here this year, so the city wants to put a good face on things. I am hoping that the new general manager will be the one to show off our city.

    Eric

  7. Lanny Thomas Tanton
    Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 12:01 am

    Dear Eric,

    You are so blessed! At least you have a hockey team for which to cheer. Going up in Detroit I was a Red Wing and Maple Leaf fan back when there was only six teams in the league–those were the days!!! However, now that I live just outside of Austin, Texas, hockey is rarely mentioned on the local television stations. We do have a minor league team, but even they are overlooked by the television media which focuses on all things at the University of Texas.

    Since you mentioned your antipathy toward the New York Yankees, you will be dismayed to learn that our dear Dan Laney is a devoted Yankees fan. When I borrowed his copy of Woodworth’s book, While God is Marching On: Religion in the Civil War, I found a couple of tickets to a Yankee game. So when you come down on the 19th and Dan begins to show you around, you may need to keep one eye on him at all time! (By the way, Dan is a great guy and will be the perfect host).

    Best wishes always,
    Lanny

  8. Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 10:33 am

    I’m surprised he’s lasted this long! I remember him as an assistant bench boss. Columbus spends up to the cap, they should be better. Our team is not close to the cap, and hides behind the “Rebuilding” theory..

  9. Brooks Simpson
    Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 11:59 am

    Let’s go Islanders!

  10. Scott Mingus
    Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Hockey in Ohio – a dismal history…

    When I was in college, the Cincinnati Stingers were a decent attraction in the old WHA, as well as a the Cleveland Crusaders. Neither team drew enough fans to be included as entries in the NHL when the two competing major leagues merged. Cleveland then went through a litany of minor league teams, none terribly successful at the gate, although the Lumberjacks provided hours of entertainment for father-daughter outings with my beloved Melissa (who just announced her engagement!).

    Ohio professional sports as a whole have been rather mediocre at best (Indians, Reds, Cavaliers) excepting the Reds’ run in the 1970s and one shining moment in 1990. The CBJ are merely only upholding this tradition of nothingness.

  11. Michael Aubrecht
    Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I “was” a fairly enthusiastic Pens fan way “back in the day” and even casually knew their famous announcer Mike Lange, BUT Pittsburgh’s (and my) heart always has belonged to the Steelers. However, my son was a hockey goalie for 4 successful years (8 months out of the year) and when he “retired” from burn-out and bruises, I vowed never to step near a rink again after spending a few thousand hours in those nasty locker rooms lacing up sweaty and tremendously expensive leg pads. We even had a customized Spiderman mask done up for him and I cringe every time I see it on his shelf. There is NO stress like being the parent of the goalie (at any level) and although he had 3 championships under his belt (w/ 2 other playoff berths) if the sport didn’t kill him physically – it would have done me in mentally.

  12. Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Scott,

    Of course, Cleveland did have an NHL team for one season, and it died of neglect. I think something like 43 people attended games that year. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eric

  13. Steve Basic
    Mon 09th Apr 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Eric,

    LOL..:) The Cleveland Barons died of who in their right mind would drive to Richfield during the winter! ๐Ÿ™‚ Then again, had I lived in Berea, OH as I did in the early 1990’s and the Barons were still around, I would have been one of the 43 who attended the games. ๐Ÿ™‚

    All I can say is Let’s Go Rangers, which is probably as welcome as Let’s Go Yankees.:)… not ๐Ÿ™‚

    BTW, Best player in Cleveland Barons history.. Denis Maruk. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  14. Mike Fitzpatrick
    Tue 10th Apr 2007 at 6:52 am

    Let’s go Rangers!!!!!!!

  15. Steve H
    Fri 13th Apr 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Eric,

    Were you in Columbus when the Columbus Chill were there? They were more
    fun to watch than the CBJ’s. Living in Findlay now, a lot of people in NW Ohio were Red Wings fans and Columbus has not given them any reason to change loyalties. Doug must go. I get sick of hearing him on 1460 the FAN or WTVN when I am in Columbus on business or visiting family.

    By the way are you going to be at the Ohio Civil War Show in Mansfield? Plenty of Blame is a great book and I am reading it whenever I can find time in my busy schedule.

    Thanks.

    Steve

  16. Fri 13th Apr 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Steve,

    I was indeed. Susan and I were season ticket holders to the Chill for four of their six seasons. We sat with the same bunch of people and exchanged Christmas gifts and cards, and we had a great group.

    I doubt Doug will be here next year.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. I expect to be there on Saturday.

    Eric

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