The beleaguered Columbus Blue Jacket's much-anticipated season is shaping up to be nothing short of abysmal, dashed dreams and disappointment once again. Their plight has been documented ad nauseum in the hockey world to the point it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. The mob mentality of doing an old fashioned beatdown of anything Blue Jackets related has seemingly been in vogue. While much of it may be deserved, there may be indications that there is a method to the madness in Columbus. Or is it wishful thinking?
If we were to apply Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to the Jackets organization, it may help shed some light on what might actually be going through the minds of the team's ownership. The basic premise being that the franchise must meet its basic needs before progressing to advanced needs. With this in mind, there might actually be a plan to right the ship that may not be easily discernible to those outside the organization.
Here is a look at what may be going on behind the scenes in terms of franchise priorities starting with the most dire ones first and then progressing to loftier needs.
No. 1: Getting the Arena Lease Fixed
The Jackets' lease with Nationwide Arena has not been at par with most other NHL franchises and the arenas they occupy. Under the new financial arrangements that are close to being signed off by all parties, the Jackets will no longer have the lease issue to deal with for several decades.
Had it not been for the new casino that is under construction in greater Columbus, there may not have been a financially viable solution to keep the Jackets a financially going concern in Columbus. This could have spelled the end of NHL hockey in Columbus and sent the franchise to Quebec City or some other hockey haven. That's why this had to be the No. 1 priority in ensuring the team could stay in Columbus.
No. 2: Getting Infusion of Cash
Nationwide Insurance is slated to purchase a significant portion of the ownership of the franchise although the McConnell family will retain top billing as the majority owner. This will bring a new infusion of capital and thereby further stabilize the financial position of the franchise. Along with that will come additional revenue from arena-naming rights also awarded to Nationwide Insurance. While Jackets fans will have to deal with a losing team for a little longer, at least they will not have to worry about losing their team.
No. 3: Getting a Favorable Outcome from the NHL Realignment
When the Blue Jackets got placed in the NHL's Western Conference, they became geographically lopsided with the rest of the teams except Detroit. The long trips to western Canada and United States began taking a toll on the Jackets. The physical demands complicated with time zone differentials along with the higher cost of traveling further away became an Achilles heel for the franchise. There was considerable concern that an already financially strapped team would not be able to survive in the long term under these same conditions.
As such, the Blue Jackets had high-stakes in the recently announced realignment of the NHL. While they did not get to move to the Eastern Conference as desired, they were able to achieve a favorable outcome in the realignment. Their placement in a conference with teams geographically much closer has been a consolation prize. Also, the new concept of home and away games that will be played by every team in the league will help bring about parity from many perspectives. Therefore, it was very important for the franchise to devote the appropriate amount of attention and energy to this end.
No. 4: Getting the Right Management Staff
After getting the aforementioned basic needs for survival met, the team ownership's focus probably would switch to ensuring they had the right management staff. This would include evaluating the positions of the president and general manager in particular. It is essential to have a president of the franchise in place that the ownership trusts and then have a general manager that the president can rely on and in turn a head coach that the general manager can count on. With the arrival of Craig Patrick on the scene in a senior adviser-type capacity with the organization, one can only surmise that he is taking stock of this crucial facet of the operation. At this point in time, it would appear that the Jackets ownership is content with the first three priorities as having been largely accomplished and is drilling deep down into this priority and need.
No. 5: Getting the Right Coaching Staff
Scott Arniel is the head coach of the team but could his days be numbered? With a successful stint at the American Hockey League level as head coach of the Manitoba Moose, Arniel has struggled in Columbus. While it's true that coaches don't actually put on the pads and skate on the ice during games, the buck has to stop with them for on-ice performance. With the Jackets firmly entrenched in last place in the league and no imminent signs of significant improvement that is sustainable, a change can be logically expected. One would not expect a change to occur in the coaching ranks until the president and GM positions are adequately evaluated and addressed.
No. 6: Getting the Right Players
It is possible that the ownership is eyeing more advanced needs such as getting the right group of players. With this in mind, the paltry efforts made in trading players thus far should pick up pace rapidly before the trade deadline. Over the course of the short and sorry history of this franchise, Rick Nash has been one of the few constants in the last decade. There is no doubt that he is a premier player in the league and arguably the best player that has worn a Jackets uniform.
Nonetheless, his captaincy has come under great scrutiny and it's possible that he may be ready for a change of scenery. The thought is that the roster will be bared with the exception of the very young talent such as Ryan Johansen and John Moore. This is another vital need for the team to cleanse itself of the losing culture that prevails.
No. 7: Getting to the Playoffs
Once the team is assembled and the coaching staff is in place, the Jackets will focus on making it to the playoffs. This season was supposed to hold so much promise and a definite expectation of returning to the playoffs for only the second time in team history. However, things could not have gone any worse for the Jackets as they sit on the bottom rung of a long ladder.
No. 8: Winning the Conference Title
After making it to the playoffs, the needs of the team could rise to the level of expecting to win the conference title. This seems light years away for the Jackets but could become a reality.
No. 9: Winning the Stanley Cup
Isn't this the ultimate dream of all teams? The Jackets are no exception to this lofty goal and it would ultimately be realized only after achieving all of the aforementioned needs.
There could be other needs interspersed between the most dire needs to the most advanced needs. But could this be the method to the madness that the team's ownership is subscribing to? Does this explain the relatively status-quo stance taken thus far by the team to right the ship? We will probably never know the truth but we sure can speculate.
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