By Manny Budinger, Featured Columnist
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they have just not been winning.
Well behind the competition in the Central, the Jackets have totaled just 5 wins, amounting to 13 points, through 21 games.
Coming into the Thanksgiving Day break though, Columbus has posted their best 10 game rolling total of the season, 4-4-2 (something the team certainly should be thankful for).
Things might be looking up. But if the past is any sign of their future, another tough season will be sure to keep the fans at bay.
Two seasons ago, the team relieved Ken Hitchcock of the head coaching duties. Success was short lived during his tenure. Columbus saw only one playoff appearance, a four game sweep by the Red Wings.
He was replaced for the 2010-11 season by current head coach, Scott Arniel.
The Blue Jackets have seen very little success in general. That playoff birth was the only winning season for a franchise that has been competing since the start of the new millennium.
After eight straight losses to start this season, rumors began swirling that Arniel was about to be kicked to the curb. Probably born out of the panic that would be the team digressing (I guess it’s possible), whispers of Hitchcock back on the bench began to surface.
Instead, the future hall of famer, Ken Hitchcock, signed with the St. Louis Blues and Columbus stayed with their man Arniel.
At this point it appears as if the Blue Jackets have hit rock bottom. Rick Nash, (2002 1st Overall) is on the verge of having his career wasted in the state capital of Ohio.
It’s not for lack of effort though. Upper management has “wheeled and dealed” in the past. After the lockout in 2005, they signed hard-nosed defensemen Adam Foote. Adam would become the 4th captain in franchise history.
Before the playoff push, the team traded for Antoine Vermette in 2009; a move they hoped would translate into more shots, and ultimately more goals.
And possibly the boldest move of all, the Blue Jackets lured away the Flyers top goal scorer, Jeff Carter. In exchange they gave up 2011 1st round pick (ultimately 8th Overall Sean Courtier), a 3rd round pick, and their 2007 number 1, Jakub Voráček.
The situation in Columbus is looking more and more like tough luck. They’ve got a top 10 payroll, in one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest. A city I might add that has no MLB, NFL, or NBA franchise.
On paper the Blue Jackets should be competing for a playoff spot. In theory they should be selling out their games. Instead, their fans sit outnumbered in Nationwide arena whenever the Penguins, Blackhawks, or Redwings come to play. And more importantly they’re not winning.
It’s time to clean house. One of the knocks on Scott Arniel is that he doesn’t work well with young talent. He’s not giving them enough time on the ice, a problem that may have played into the Carter trade where they gave up Voráček and a first round pick.
Hockey is a game that’s getting younger, on the bench and with the clipboard. The Blue Jackets need to follow suit. A player like Voráček has the potential to out produce Carter in two years and the first round draft picks usually have reasons to be optimistic.
They still have Ryan Johansen (2010, 4th Overall), a developing star. They potentially have a good first round pick in 2012. They need to work with what they have, and that’s the future, not the present.
The shortcuts to success have backfired, a consequence of most any risk. It’s a shame; things could have been different by now in Columbus, but they’re not. Pick up a player’s coach, and start over Columbus. Just start over.