The Columbus Blue Jackets are 3-1-1 in their last five. Yes, you read that correctly. Could this be the team we were led to believe that we’d really be seeing this season? It’s probably easy to get caught up in the furor of the moment and to be dazzled (or glamored, if you will) by a five game uptick after such an agonizingly slow death – I mean start – but there are enough positives to pull from the situation that it’s hard to believe that this isn’t for the relative long haul.
- The Beast has been awakened: Trade drama,slow start, injury, slow start, trade drama, and Welcome to Columbus, Jeff Carter. After a tumultuous start to his born again career in Columbus, the blonde bombshell wasn’t exactly winning fans over on the ice. In the last two games, the snakebite has been healed and Carter has sniped three goals. Pure snipes, wicked wristers that nobody is going to corral. So this is why we traded an underachieving kid and a high draft pick. Next time we’ll make sure to specify that October 7th is when the party starts on the invites. Provided the snake of doom doesn’t bite again, Carter’s spark – along with the chemistry starting to build up front – could and should ignite a snowball effect that will turn into the Nash/Carter/InsertWarmBodyHere combination we were really hoping could score 60-70 goals.
- Out with the old, in with the Wisniewski: Congratulations! You just have just acquired and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a semi-proven offensive defenseman. Now learn to play without him for half of preseason and eight games of regular season. The Jackets definitely missed this guy for the first eight games, and that showed when he roared back onto the ice against Detroit for the team’s first victory of the year. However, his stability faltered after just a few games (something absurd like -11 in just three games), but he seems to have regained form and netted a monster goalforthe Jackets to topple Darth Vader/Goliath/The Devil/World Hunger/the Nashville Predators.
- Not so Vermeaty: What the heck happened with the former first/second line Antoine Vermette? This guy was struggling to epic proportions to start the season, but since being moved to the third line has seemed to calm down. He’s playing more defensive minutes with Pahlsson & Dorsett, and is pressing less to make offensive opportunities.
- Nikita Nikitininininin and the Surprise Defensive Corps: Great, Howson. One Nikita wasn’t enough drama, so you went out and traded the well-loved (hold your snorts, please, media-types) Little Shake (oh, just me?) for a guy WHOSE NAME IS NIKITA-SQUARED. What a surprise this guy has been, eating minutes, putting up a few assists, and otherwise quietly getting the job done. John Moore has also stepped up to the plate and has seemingly matured before our eyes. Perhaps it was the lack of pressure for him this season to be somebody they could depend heavily on, seemingly relegated for heavy AHL duty, that allowed him to slow down mentally. Whatever it was, Moore has done relatively, surprisingly well when called into service, though Arniel has him on a tight leash and is hesitant to use him in the third period of close games.
Let’s be realistic, now. The hole has been dug deeply, and even if the recent surge continues for the next 60 games, there’s little chance that this team can elevate itself to a dominant, sure bet for the playoffs. Can we hope so? Absolutely. The same way the Jackets tripped, stumbled, and rolled out of the gate and into a puddle of quicksand, teams are going to hit these patches. The Jackets need to capitalize on those moments when their competitors stumble, and make the most of every opportunity. If nothing, to salvage their dignity and that of their fans, and to prove that Howson & co. made the right moves last summer. You can buy all of the pieces to the car, but if you don’t assemble them correctly, or some of them misfire, the car isn’t worth its weight in metal. Are the Jackets worth their weight in salary cap? On paper, and in theory, you want to hope so. Over the last five games? Absolutely. Has the ship been righted, or are they going to continue taking on water? Time will tell.