For a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets, just the fact that I’m writing an article asking if making the playoffs is the only way this season is deemed a success is rather astonishing. Let’s rewind about a year, folks. Keep going. Keep going. Back before Jeff Carter was a tool. Just kidding, we’ll be here all night. Okay annnnnd STOP!
We have arrived: Summer 2012.
Rick Nash, the all time leader in everything Columbus hockey, said, “see ya” to the only team he’d ever played for. We all knew it was coming. Ever since word leaked last February that our captain had asked for a trade, we had time to prepare. His last few games in a Columbus sweater passed awful quietly, with the Jackets missing the playoffs yet again.
The summer arrived and Columbus saw Nash head to New York City to play for an original six franchise. Sure, we got some guys in return, but it felt like we were trading the franchise for a couple of junior varsity players. And to make matters worse, we traded a draft pick for…Sergei Bobrovsky’? The ONLY goaltender in the league that had better numbers than Steve Mason.
With no captain and two Masons in net, we were set for another looooooooong season. And the first 20 or so games proved that. Worst in the league. Again. Inconsistent goaltending. Again. Lackluster crowds. Again.
Until it all changed…
Seemingly out of nowhere, a point streak emerged. We went from bottom of the barrel to a “feel good story.” We went from a ”feel good story” to “don’t look now, but…” And we went from “don’t look now, but…” to tied for a playoff spot. Of course, we all know how it ends: Detroit wins. Minnesota wins. We’re watching the playoffs from our couch, out of the post season by less than a point.
But with that came the most dangerous of things: hope. And not a “I hope Vermette can score 12 goals this season” kind of hope, but rather a string of news and notes that reminded the hockey world that Columbus was no longer just a city in which you could just rest your top goalie.
We had 3 first round draft picks. Bobrovsky won the vezina. He re-signed for two more years. We got Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline. We dumped Mason off in Philadelphia to sink or swim. (SPOILER: sink.) And we signed NATHAN FREAKIN’ HORTON to a seven year deal like 43 seconds after the hawks hoisted the cup. Heard of him?
We have moved the campaign eastward. Many critics claim we are in for a rude awakening in the Metropolitan division. Okay. I’ll give you that. But I’ll raise your rude awakening for a reminder that we played in a division with Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and Nashville. They weren’t exactly JV clubs skating around.
So, I ask you, dear readers: what are your expectations? After a slew of good signings and results, does making the playoffs satisfy you? Winning a game? A series?
Success is relative. In other words, success according to Chicago may mean something different than success according to Florida. As for this team, I expect success. But in the end, it’s all about how you define it.