Columbus Identity Crisis- Who Are We?


Am I like the rest of the CBJ nation when I watch Atlanta win big in the Blackhawk fire sale and wonder: Why not us? Where was our bid? Why weren’t we in play for SOMEONE?  How about watching a GM taking a dynamic hand in reshaping his team in only his first month on the job? It’s amazing what happens when management has clear roles, goals and direction!

We are just over a month away from the start of training camp, and the biggest move of the off-season from Columbus, OH has been ensuring that Nikita Filatov is meeting his fitness requirements. I have heard all the same lines that were spouted last year, such as “expecting the young players to develop”, etc.  What I am still not hearing from anywhere near Nationwide Blvd. is direction, specifically an  identity.

Who are these guys? Who sets the tone? Let compare with a quick look at the more successful franchises in the NHL and the people that define them:

1. Detroit – Yes, its easy when you have the money to spend. But as any successful business person will tell you, it’s more about HOW you spend it (i.e. Toronto, NY Rangers). GM Ken Holland has overseen the rise of one of the most successful dynasties in all of professional sports, not just hockey. His plan for success? Find solid coaching and support it with intelligent, effective talent by drafting smart and filling in the gaps with trades for similar players. It is very easy to point to the Wing’s success and credit Yzerman, Fedorov, etc… but their back to back Cup run in 1997-98 was more about their role players Maltby, Draper, McCarty and Lapointe.

2. Philadelphia – My nickname for the Flyers is “Team Train Wreck”. It’s UGLY the way they tend to move players in and out at times, but one thing is clear for this franchise: you will pay a physical price to beat them. While they aren’t the goon infused linup of the Broad Street Bullies, the team emphasizes effort, brawn and physical toughness over all other qualities. Sr VP Bobby Clarke set the tone here, first as a player and then as a GM.

3. Anaheim – Hard to consider them as they are currently, but under Brian Burke they reached the pinnacle of success by drafting strong, fast, agressive players that fit first Mike Babcock than Randy Carlyle aggressive forecheck systems. It is no coincidence that they won the Cup as the most penalized team in 2007. Most of those PIMs were fighting majors. If that doesn’t give you an identity, nothing does.

How do the Blue Jackets find their identity? Good question, but the three teams above all share the same key to success: do one thing best many times, not many things best one time. Detroit controls the puck better than any other, Philly inflicts pain better than any other, Anaheim grinds better than any other. See a pattern here? The Blue Jackets don’t fit that mold… yet. The key is finding the identity and then sticking to it, even if it fails at first. What identity could the Blue Jackets develop?

It is up to Scott Howson, Scott Arniel and Rick Nash to develop the franchise identity going forward, because the existing one of futile tail-chasing is getting old with even the true fans. My suggestion would be skating. Draft ’em FAST. Beat the other team to the puck, up the ice, to their net. I like the idea of the Jackets leaving their regimented style behind for a more fitting “cavalry charge” approach and leaving the slow “cannon” method to the goal celebrations!