Oh, how times change. One year ago (approximately), CBJ fans watched this team fall just one point short of a playoff berth despite an electrifying win in the final game of the season. And now? Well, it’s just the opposite. Columbus Blue Jackets players, fans, staff, and anyone else with any kind of investment in the team are all gearing up for a, hopefully quite long, playoff run.
So what’s changed in the past year? A few subtle signings here and there, a change in conference, but most importantly, a change in expectations and belief from the fans, staff, and the players themselves. Oh, and that of every NHL fan and player as well.
Last season, the support being poured out from fans of other teams was that of pity. This team had been bottom-feeding for a while, and people kind of cheered them on like they were lesser than their teams. But the CBJ faithful knew and still know, this team is capable of more than anyone else knows.
But this year, it’s different. The CBJ are a real threat now, and the Penguins will know that come Wednesday. Gone are the “Aww #Lumbus!” and the “OMG if Columbus wins the cup that would be so adorable” tweets like the Blue Jackets are the little brother of every other team. Now, expectations have changed from the CBJ fanbase outward. Everyone knows these boys are for real.
Of course, the job isn’t done yet. But the mark has been made. The Columbus Blue Jackets are among elite company in these 2014 playoffs, and it’s not like they’re the stragglers, either. They beat THE Detroit Red Wings to earn a spot ahead of them. That’s right, the very same Red Wings who are playing in their 23rd straight playoffs. I’d say that earns some respect.
But despite the newfound respect, this season will mostly be remembered by the way the players stepped up. They didn’t play like the team that has only been to the playoffs once despite being around for 10+ years. They played like a team who finally realized they have just as much a shot at success as any other team. And that is why we are prepping for playoff hockey in Columbus instead of Toronto. Because this team finally expected better of themselves, and met those expectations.