The Jackets left over a week ago to embark on their longest road stretch of the year: Nashville, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and St. Louis. What seemed upon departure to be a winnable road trip, has left the team’s seething with only two points over those five games. Games against teams they have beaten who themselves are in the Western Conference playoff predicament – St. Louis and Nashville – were close, but only one point was salvaged out of either. Vancouver, the one team of the trip who seemed to be the biggest hurdle after scoring seven goals on them in December, was a 1-1 game that needed a shootout to be decided. And let’s not talk about those games in Alberta. Just absolutely wasted points.
It should have been realistic to come home with six or seven points. It would have been preferable to do so. It was possible. Instead of being just a few points back of eighth and right in the pack, they’ve suddenly dropped back seven points with seventeen games left. There’s little use, at this point, in trying to guess how many games they would need to win, how many points to get back into the picture.
The fact of the matter here is that they have played themselves out of the playoff race after playing back into it. After a long, ugly skid that should have derailed them permanently months ago, their current skid is a mere speed bump, but shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. They’ve been good, but they’ve also been very bad.
But one thing they have consistently been is resilient. They have had poor performances and rebounded the following game to play even with the league’s best team. They have had terribly bad meltdown periods, and rebounded to tie games with impossible seconds left on the clock. They have (especially lately) done a very good job of keeping themselves in games and giving themselves a chance to win it, even when they did not deserve to.
Wasting your time, at this point, doing the math to tell you what you already know (which is: they need a miracle) is nothing but a morale waster. Seventeen games left are left. Ten at home, in fact, so don’t excuse yourself from this season just yet. There is a lot that can be taken away from the 65 games already played, and those remaning.
There is a lot to be excited about, if you’re the optimistic type. How about Matt Calvert? He’s only going to get better with age, and he’s amazed us over and over again. The kid doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him, just a whole hell of a lot of grit and hustle. There’s Scottie Upshall to be excited about – he’s brought something so elevated and new to the team that you’ve got to believe they’re going to give him a talk in the offseason. There will be depatures, free agents, and a fresh crop of rookies with a year of AHL seasoning ready to jump into the the fold.
Faded playoff hopes don’t erase these good strides the team has made. They’ve evolved, even from minute to minute, game to game, over the course of this season. Playoffs or not, it has been incredibly enjoyable. And if you have been focused on the number “95″ since October 1 and watching the standings on a minute by minute basis… well, you missed out on something good. This was a good team. This still is a good team. We’ll be holding your seat on the bandwagon next year.