Through out the course of the brief existence of the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise, the team has lacked an identity. An identity that is beyond just the city, team name, ownership, management, coaches and players.
Is it an offensive dynamo with high-scoring ability as a major part of it’s characteristics? Is it a stingy, defensive-minded team that puts a premium on the goalie position and defensive corps? Is it a physical, hard-checking team? Is it a finesse, high-skills oriented team?
As we sit in the midst of the summer, we can reflect back on all of the above styles that we have seen over the tenure of numerous coaches; starting with the Dave King era to the current Todd Richards era. Never have we seen a consistent style that could readily be identified as the Columbus-brand of hockey. Perhaps, under Ken Hitchcock, the team developed a bit of an identity if you can even call it that with it’s stay-at-home defensive corps.
So, you can’t declare yourself as being an orange one day and then change your mind the next day to boldly claim you’re a a strawberry. Only to once again change your mind and now claim to be a banana. And, this is the kind of history the team has had. Can you believe it? Dude, are the Blue Jackets a freaking fruit salad?
Successful teams like the Detroit Red Wings have developed a consistent identity. They are able to attract some of the better players in the game and at the same time develop the young talent in their farm system along those lines. Columbus has a double black eye with converting promising talent into successful top 6 starters with an exception, most notably, Rick Nash.
As the ownership and management go about “rebuilding” or “reshaping” or “reappropriating” the club, strong consideration must be given to embracing a particular identity and investing in it. Otherwise, the Jackets will continue to be a fruit salad.
As of late, there finally seems to be an indication of sorts that management is seeking to build a strong defensive unit with the drafting of Ryan Murray as opposed to moving up the draft ladder and getting Nail Yakupov. Along these lines, an aging but seasoned Adrian Aucoin was acquired to help mentor Murray, John Moore and other young talent. Sergei Bobrovsky was picked up by the Jackets in a mild effort to boost the goalie position which has been a glaring weakness of this team for several years. From reports on the blogosphere, it appears that the Jackets are in the hunt for Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings. If true then this further signals that Howson and company are perhaps embracing the Nashville model by building from the back out.
What will be interesting to see is whether this trend of piling on at the defensive end will carry forward, should Rick Nash get traded. The dynamics of the team’s needs could change radically with Nash’s departure depending on what the Jackets get in return. If they settle for mostly future draft picks and unseasoned talent then there will be a massive void in the offensive zone. Columbus will be in desperate need of goal scorers and so the focus could change from defense to offense, literally overnight.
At any rate, it would behoove the Jackets to strongly consider branding their style of hockey and then sticking with it. It will give the team a bona-fide identity and a true sense of direction. Otherwise, the team is just one big fruit salad. I would get the Marketing Department busy and come up with a name that more accurately describes the product such as the Columbus Fruit Flies. And, the fans could toss old rotten fruits on the ice. Just kidding! Well, okay. Just half-kidding! Uh, go Fruit Flies! Ice that! GO JACKETS!