The good news for the Columbus Blue Jackets is that 2011 is ending. The bad news is that it still counts.
After an off-season spent bolstering the roster with star center Jeff Carter and defenseman James Wisniewski, this was almost certainly the most promising season in team history. It was do or die this year. And the team showed up without a pulse.
The Jackets are set to ring in the new year dead last in the NHL. Playoff hopes are pretty much dashed, and the season isn’t quite half-finished.
To quote noted philosopher Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu all over again.
Ah, but the renewal of the calendar is a chance for a fresh start. Here are some suggestions for the Blue Jackets to kick 2012 off on the right foot.
Be more self-confident
This season has been marked by some of the most spectacular collapses in the history of a team well-versed in spectacular collapses.
Two of the most notable unravelings came against the Nashville Predators — a two-goal lead erased in the final 1:36 in regulation on Dec. 8 and a pre-Christmas lump of coal on Dec. 22 where a 4-1 first-period lead evaporated into a loss in the closing seconds.
For fans, it’s been both painful and familiar watching the team give away leads. But this is a professional hockey team full of professional hockey players. They can and should stop the bleeding.
Despite some help from unexpected sources — Curtis Sanford! Nikita Nikitin! — the list of underperforming Jackets is exhausting.
Guys like R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard — counted on to provide secondary scoring — have been especially quiet this season.
We know you guys are better than this. We’ve seen it.
This is just good advice. It’s really bad for you.
Meet new people
It’s the unfair nature of sports that struggling teams get their head coaches fired. They’re the sacrificial lambs, and the season has already seen several NHL coaches get the ax.
Scott Arniel has not been among them, a fact which baffles many hockey commentators and Blue Jackets fans. Arniel’s been dealt a tough hand, and it’s not fair, but a change at the top has to precede any gutting of the team.
As of Alive’s deadline, he still has a job. Maybe we need to let old acquaintance be forgotten.