I am amazed at the amount of (electronic) ink/airtime the Columbus Blue Jackets have been receiving lately. I don't say this because I don't think they deserve it; on the contrary. I'm amazed because very few people outside the Greater Columbus Area (and not too many people IN the Area) had any interest in the Jackets until about a month ago. As most of the hockey-watching world knows, that changed with the arrival of The Boy Wonder, 20-year-old goalie Steve Mason.
Tonight, The Hated (only the unenlightened and Satan's minions call them the Detroit Red Wings) defeated injury-plagued Columbus, 3-0. No matter; the Blue Jackets are building something big - something good - on the banks of the Scioto River. And a child shall lead them...but which one? For now, Mason has strapped the team to his back. Fellow rookie Jakub Voracek may be a year or two away from greatness (or at least very goodness), but he's already shown enough flashes to make fans sit up and take notice every time he hops over the boards. Derrick Brassard will be back next season, ready to pick up where he left off. Nikita Filatov is waiting in the wings (and with tonight's injury to Rick Nash, he might be Columbus-bound sooner, rather than later). So much promise, so many possibilities...it's pretty damned exciting.
The excitement surrounding the Blue Jackets goes beyond the promise of seasons to come, beyond the current excitement of a young goalie carrying a beat-to-hell team and establishing himself as a front-runner for the Calder Trophy (while visions of Vezinas dance in fans' heads). The kicker is this: In spite of all the injuries, which have laid bare their lack of depth, Columbus is still in the playoff hunt! They haven't clinched a playoff spot, but On Goal Analysis can't call them OUT of the race...yet. Their margin of error is slim, but they've still got a chance. Yes, it really is exciting.
I know I'm not the only person who feels this way. I know this because I went to shop.NHL.com with the intent to purchase a SECOND (yes, I already had one, you Jacket-Come-Latelys) Columbus t-shirt. I was prepared to plunk down the plastic... until I discovered that the shirt I wanted was on backorder. What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks?!?! I doubt ANY Columbus Blue Jackets merchandise has EVER been out of stock/on backorder since the franchise's first season. But it is now.
With that, I'd like to welcome everyone to the Blue Jackets Bandwagon. Grab a seat and buckle up - it's going to be quite a ride. Oh, and be sure to stop by shop.NHL and order your t-shirt, so you can show your support for the team...in 2-4 weeks.
Take me back to On Goal Analysis