10 Seasons – 1 Playoff Appearence = Lots of Frustration!


The unveiling of the 10th Season logo by the Blue Jackets gives me a bittersweet reaction when I look at it, especially after last season. Watching this franchise has been excruciating at times because it seems just as they take a step forward, they slip back again, going nowhere slowly.

It’s easy to be negative and point out the franchises’ moves the last 10 years and call them failures. Personally, I don’t like the word failure as it implies finality! Now mistakes and setbacks, they leave scars…
Let’s explore last season:

  • Poor conditioning coming out of training camp.  Setback. This became evident by mid December last year and was one of interim coach Claude Noel’s first admissions taking over as coach (which he later retracted due to player embarrassment). Still, by then he was stating the obvious. The team never recovered and missed the playoffs in a year they were expected to qualify.
  • Ken Hitchcock. Is “Unfortunate” a category?  It’s hard not to like Hitch; he has a great hockey mind and is a greater person. But after issues now in both Philly and Columbus his handicap seems to be adapting his coaching to the players on hand. Hard to call him a setback when he led them to their best period of respectability. I do think asking him to remain with the franchise is one of the best moves the franchise has made in its front office history.
  • Nikita Filatov going to Russia. Mistake!  Howson letting Nikita out to the KHL last year was a huge mistake, and honestly I feel it revealed the true issue in the Howson/Hitch dynamic. Howson is working to develop a modern NHL roster: Fast, Young, and Energetic. Hitchcock, still coaching circa 1998, couldn’t fit the Jackets square peg players into his round peg playbook. On a deeper team his loss might not have meant much, but I feel it cost them a vital scorer.
  • Trading Jason Chimera for effectively Chris Clark and a 6th round draft pick. Mistake! Chimera was one of the few Jackets veteran players made for the current NHL game (fast), was a fan fave and enjoyed playing here.  The only thing worse than the trade itself was shipping Jurcina BACK to Washington at the deadline.

Throw in Gilbert Brule discovering his potential as a top 6 forward in Edmonton and a division rival in the Blackhawks go from basement, to better, to Cup winner in basically Columbus’ franchise lifetime and soon your feeling downright miserable about last season. However, there is positive progress:

  • Rick Nash Signed to an Extension. Losing Nash at this stage of his career would have been devastating to the franchise.
  • Howson cleaned house on the coaching staff. The firing of Barry Brennan, Gary Agnew and Gord Murphy was a change long overdue. The fact that all three had survived multiple coaching changes was unusual at the NHL level.
  • Strong youth movement on defense. Kris Russell and Grant Clitsome are the beginning of a strong group of young defensemen in the development system.  John Moore, David Savard, and Theo Ruth and others are going to make the system very deep in the next few years.

Some bright light in a very dark room to be sure.

Needless to say, last season is SO last season. New coaches and a new attitude mean maybe a new perspective on the first Blue Jackets decade this time next year.