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Fearful – err, Fearless Predictions – Blue Jackets

Much unlike my counterparts, who generally go conventional wisdom when making pre-season prognostications, I am neither conventional, nor wise, so, I’m going to offer my predictions for the CBJ’s playoff chances.

To begin with, you can all no longer insert the following lead phrase when describing the Columbus Blue Jackets, and their chances:

“You know, the Columbus Blue Jackets are the only team who have never made the playoffs”…enough already! Yeesh! Get over it, mainstream egomaniacs – I won’t name names, Scott Burnside, Mike Milbury – AKA THE WORST GM IN HISTORY, Pierre McGuire, et al.

First off, my prediction will be addressed in a slightly unconventional way – I will analyze all of the Western Conference teams in the following categories – the In’s, the Out’s and the dreaded Tweener’s.

Here’s my rundown – with comments for each team, pro or con:

In’s:

– Detroit – sad, but true, sad, but true – the red menace isn’t going anywhere, for a while; however, I do think they come back to the rest of the conference – putting all your eggs in Osgood as your go to guy – which Osgood shows up: playoff Ozzy or regular season (uh, pretty crummy) Ozzy? Uh, who’s the backup? Gonna really miss the Conk!

– Hawks – a mess, yes, but also extremely talented – two big issues: Is Huet really their man in the net (who is his backup, BTW?), and, will all of the chaos – management overhaul, salary cap mess, Hossa’s shoulder, etc. – affect their taking the next step? However, still enough talent to have them in the mix.

– Blues – some have said that the Blues are a carbon copy of the Blue Jackets; however, I believe they’re going to be a team to watch in the Western Conference. What was viewed by some as a burden – losing McKee, Eric Johnson and Paul Kariya for basically the entire season, it actually served as a blessing, in that their young talent had the chance to develop. Watch out, should Johnson and Kariya return back to form. The Blues are to the CBJ what the “Evil Empire” – AKA the Preds – once were. And, until the CBJ can get past that, mentally or otherwise, you have to believe they will continue to be a major thorn to the CBJ.

– Calgary – still a tough, talented team – Bouwmester and Phaneuf, together? WOW! Big question, though: Beyond Iginla and Jokinen, where’s the front-line offense? Bueller?

– Canucks – Pretty solid, all around. The talent obtained from San Jose, via trade, certainly didn’t hurt an already talented team. What, Chimmer for Erhoff wasn’t a fair deal? I kid, I kid…

– Ducks – they laid to rest any doubters as to their demise/slide, with their late season run and playoff performance. Stud goalie in Hiller. Bobby Ryan – he’s good, him…

– Sharks – a team in flux, but, should still be a stout, solid team – well, for the regular season, that is.

OK, that leaves 7 teams in. Now, those who I believe don’t quite make it…

Out’s:

– Preds – being offensively impaired will continue to haunt them – still, a gritty team and will be there, until the end. Having Trotz and Poile at the helm certainly always helps. If they could get offensive-minded forwards to match their offensively-talented defensive corps – Rads, come back! – certainly a team to keep in mind.

– Avs – as Drew Rosenhaus would say, “Next question”…I guess that “going retro” experiment didn’t quite work out…couldn’t happen to a more pompous bunch. Hey Benedict Foote, so glad you made the right move, in going back to this mess…

– Wild – also a team in flux – this flux, however, is a messy one. The land of misfit organization direction…

– Stars – old, old, old – managerial overhaul, aside. Pride’s one thing, father time’s another…

– ‘Yotes – financial woes and Balsillie distractions put a damper on a team who’s now building the right way, finally. Now, if they could only have to play the Blue Jackets, the entire season)…

– Kings – Scuderi and Ryan Smith certainly help, as will the development of their young talent, but, their goalie situation, while improved, keeps them, for now, on the outs. Keep and eye out, though!

OK, those are 6 teams that won’t make it, in my belief.

And now, the dreaded Tweener’s, for that last playoff spot:

Oil – you look at this roster, and you wonder how they missed making the playoffs, last season – it might be the reason for the managerial overall. Now, with the ‘Bulin wall as their steady goalie, and their coaching duo – sorry to say, Pat Quinn’s health is a BIG factor – but, if he can hang in there, health-wise, and, combined with the very underrated and capable co-coach, Tom Renney, you have to believe they contend for a playoff spot.

And last, but certainly not least, the Blue Jackets – one more BIG piece, Mr. Howson, one more OBVIOUS piece…Daddy wants a puck-moving, power play specialist defenseman – 30th is NOT good, for a power play ranking – that’s still dead last. That being said, sorry to say, leads me to a qualified prediction for the Blue Jackets – in Vegas terms, a push: If they obtain a puck-moving defenseman – perhaps an Anton Babchuck, a Marc Andre Bergeron or a Dennis Seidenberg – one or three will do – I believe they make it into the playoffs. While the Western Conference is both balanced and brutal, and while sophomore slumps and early playoff ouster could present a factor, the Blue Jackets also do possess and solid core of young, emerging talent – the trio of Brassard, Filatov and Voracek could certainly match most teams young talent pool – not to mention having future Hall of Fame coach Ken Hitchcock at the helm, and the steady hand that is GM Scott Howson, I believe the Blue Jackets – if, and only if, they obtain the piece, mentioned above, do make the playoffs, and do make that next step towards being a perennial playoff team and a rising power in the Western Conference. Status quo – solid acquisitions – Pahlson and Garon, aside – doesn’t quite cut it.

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