It's been eight, grueling, disappointing and down right difficult seasons for the Columbus Blue Jackets since they entered the league in 2000.
Now, standing as the lone NHL team to never taste the post-season, here they are amidst their ninth attempt, praying, pushing and fighting to get the playoff monkey off of their back.
This year for Columbus, their rookie class and outstanding group of young skaters have played a huge role in the team’s success and the first man that comes to mind is none other than their standout goaltender, Steve Mason.
Mason has been the breath of fresh air this club has been hoping for and he’s almost single handedly changed the face of the entire team.
When he’s between the pipes, the team as a whole takes on a new shape and they’re given a sense that they can play along with any of the league’s top teams.
This guy can only get better once he has some playoff experience under his belt and he’ll be a serious Vezina trophy contender for years to come.
Next, the Blue Jackets brought in a couple of guys last off-season which gave them much needed boosts in the skill, experience, and determination departments.
Fedor Tyutin came to Columbus in a swap with the New York Rangers for Nikolai Zherdev last summer.
So far, this season, Tyutin has eight goals and 24 assists, which far surpasses his career high of 20-points set last year with the Rangers.
Kristian Huselius was brought in last summer when he signed a four-year; $19 million deal with the Jackets.
Kristian has the much needed experience and offensive firepower to fit in perfectly with this team. He’s been an outstanding ally to team captain, Rick Nash, and he’s proving he can produce in any environment having put up 50-points in 72 games.
R.J. Umberger had the best season of his young NHL career when he put up 50-points while playing for the Flyers, last year. The Jackets quickly took notice and acquired him by way of trade last summer.
Coach Ken Hitchcock was expecting him to score goals and he hasn’t failed to provide the goods.
R.J. has 24 goals on the year, setting a new career high for himself and placing him second on the team in goals behind Rick Nash.
The Jackets have made a few mid-season moves this year: Most recently being the
acquisition of forward, Antoine Vermette.
Vermette was brought in at the trade deadline, in a swap for Pascal Leclaire, to provide an offensive boost for the team as they march towards the postseason. This guy has been everything they were hoping for and then some, as he’s red-hot right now.
In seven games with the Jackets, Vermette has five goals and three assists, and he’s a huge reason the team is as hot as they are right now. This is the X-factor Columbus has been looking for.
The Jackets also brought in veteran forward Jason Williams, back in January, by way of trade with Atlanta.
Jason is force from the point on the power play, and he has brought a nice surprise of offense with him so far with 20-points in 29 games. Williams will provide playoff experience, having played in over 20 playoff games as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.
As far as players go, I had to save the best for last. This club has been led all season by its driven, focused, and determined captain, Rick Nash.
Nash has been thriving more and more every year that he plays in the league, and he may be showing his best skills during this year’s campaign.
He’s not only as much of an offensive threat as he’s always been, but he’s leading a team to where they’ve never been before.
The Blue Jackets will make the playoffs this year riding on the back of Rick Nash, who will NOT let them be left out of the post-season, yet again.
On March 7, Rick had a hat trick during the Jackets 8-2 route of the Red Wings in Detroit.