Why Cover the Blue Jackets Now?
After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, does 2023 mark a turning point for the Blue Jackets?
Being a Blue Jackets fan over the last two decades has felt a bit like riding a rollercoaster that's had one too many screws loosened, hasn’t it?
Almost exactly a year ago, it felt like we hopped tracks and this rollercoaster went into hyper-speed:
Start with the highs of signing Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine to long-term deals, then plunge into the stomach-churning lows of losing Zach Werenski to a season-ending injury along with that awful start by the team as a whole.
As Eric Schumacher pointed out in his excellent newsletter, Werenski was off to having an outstanding season, too: “In terms of exiting the zone, The Blue Jackets pretty much boil down to Zach Werenski and everyone else.”
You’re not alone if you feel a bit dizzy.
You might be asking yourself, why resurrect Jackets coverage now?
Why dive back into the fray after one of the worst seasons in CBJ history?
The answer is simple. I hold an unshakeable belief in this team, in the city of Columbus, and in the untapped potential of Central Ohio.
You can look both inside and outside the team for positive signs of progress:
I’m personally heartened by seeing a player like Kirill Marchenko step up into becoming a more vocal leader. Jeff Svoboda of the Blue Jackets takes a look at Marchenko, whose dedication to hard work and positive spirit could lead to that 40-goal season before we know it.
After the global reshuffle in a post-pandemic world, what could be better for a fresh start than a top-tier recruit with the 3rd overall pick in the 2023 Draft? Adding a player the caliber of Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson to the Blue Jackets roster this season or next would do wonders when it comes to having everyone else play in more appropriate positions.
Plus a healthy Werenski and Laine, and maybe a little fresh competition in net with a new goalie coach on the way?
Those factors falling into place could turn this franchise around in a hurry.
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But then there’s this potential head scratcher…
No Coach for Now
Three names seem to be at the top of General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s list: Pascal Vincent, Peter Laviolette, and... Mike Babcock?
But there’s still no clear favorite for now.
“Some of the things he (Babcock) said to him (Franzen) on the bench, I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors one-on-one, but he blatantly verbally assaulted him during the game on the bench.
“It got to the point where poor Johan, no one really knowing he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing, he just broke down and had nervous breakdown, not only on the bench but after the game in one of the rooms in Nashville."
Is that who we want leading the Jackets into battle? It should be noted Johan Franzen later confirmed these events to the media.
It would be a real head scratcher to build a young, dynamic roster and not contend with the reality that a coach like Babcock would seem to risk driving out the team’s best players – not to mention that he’s shown little public remorse while being described as having verbally assaulted his players.
I’m not a fan of that type of person representing this team or this city.
Laviolette or Vincent make much more sense to me, and either could fit the bill for a proper reset next season.
A New Start
Your input matters – what Blue Jackets coverage do you want to see?
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This is about more than hockey. It's about standing up for Columbus, for fans of the Jackets, and for growing the game of hockey in Central Ohio. We’ve made a run before and we’ll make one again. And we’re going to be here to cover it.
That’s why Union Blue Hockey exists.
Despite one of the worst seasons in CBJ history, we’re here, sticking with the team and telling it like it is.
That’s our commitment to you.