Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Columbus Blue Jackets Start this Season Right?

The last two seasons have been some of the best in Columbus Blue Jackets history, but they didn’t start out that way. In 2012, the Jackets began the year by going 5-12-4. Last year wasn’t much better, as they started out 5-10-4.

Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Not the kind of start a playoff-contending team wants to have. In 2012-13, the Jackets missed the playoffs by only a tie-breaker, tying for the final division spot in the West. Last season, they managed to grab the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, overcoming the slow start they wished to forget at the beginning of the season.

Last season was certainly exciting, but it would have been even better if the Jackets could have started off a bit better. Of course, with hindsight, it’s easy to say we could have claimed the third metro spot with just one more win. But it’s true. We could have faced the Rangers in the first round, and who knows what could have been.

But instead of dwelling in the past, can the Jackets make this season better? It’s hard to beat a franchise-record-setting season, but it can be done. They have yet to win a playoff game in regulation, yet to win a series. There is a lot to still be done, and a lot to be excited about, and it all starts with getting a good start to they year.

But will it be any different than last year? The roster looks largely the same, except we have a Scottt Hartnell instead of an R. J. Umberger, and a healthy Nathan Horton to start the year. We are without some notable names like Marian Gaborik, Derek MacKenzie and Blake Comeau. But other than that, the core of the team is largely the same. Columbus has a good, solid core of young players who are no doubt as eager as the fans to launch into another season of CBJ hockey.

Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

A big difference this year, though, is experience. Everyone on the Jackets roster (at least before we add the rookies from training camp) has experienced the NHL playoffs. Young guys like Ryan Murray have seen firsthand what it takes to be a playoff hockey team. The guys know how much each point counts, and they know what it feels like to be fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

If that’s not motivation enough, they shouldn’t be playing hockey. It might be too optimistic, but last year’s playoff run has to be motivational for the Jackets’ players. Missing the 2013 playoffs was a huge disappointment, but making it and losing is motivation. They know what they’re fighting for now, and they know what it looks like to be an NHL playoff team.

Hopefully the experience they gained in the playoffs this year will help get the team off to a better start this year. Having Horton healthy and likely adding some young blood in the possible addition of draft pick Alexander Wennberg will certainly boost the roster as this season gets underway, and all we can do is hope and cheer them on as the Jackets begin the road to the 2015 NHL Playoffs.
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