As the top eight teams from each conference battle it out in hopes to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, teams on the outside looking in reflect on the past season as they look forward to the future of their team.
The past season had plenty of highs and lows for the Columbus Blue Jackets. From their hot start to being in the thick of trade deadline rumors to falling short in the final games of the season.
Regardless, the past season has left the Columbus faithful wondering what will come of the team in October when it begins all over again. General Manager Scott Howson has said that change is on the horizon, and it started with the parting of ways with Columbus and goaltending coach Dave Rook.
So we take a look at the top moments from the past season and ask the fans what they thought was the peak of the 2010-2011 Columbus Blue Jackets.
1) The Hot Start
The Blue Jackets started the season with a two-game series with the San Jose Sharks in Stockholm, Sweden.
With new head coach Scott Arniel at the helm, the Jackets brought about a more aggressive play, much different from the game-plan of past coach Ken Hitchcock.
After losing the first game to the Sharks, the Jackets turned up the heat, winning eight of their next 11 games. The Jackets received contributions from unlikely players in backup Mathieu Garon, youngster Kyle Wilson, and fourth line center Derek MacKenzie.
Columbus found themselves in the thick of things in the pursuit of the Central division crown and were out to prove to everyone else that they could not only make the playoffs, but actually win a few postseason games.
2) The RJ Umberger Soccer Incident
On Wednesday November 10, the Blue Jackets were scheduled to take on the rival St. Louis Blues at Nationwide Arena. Before games, several players in the league like to warm up their legs by kicking around a soccer ball.
Well on this night, the Blues decided to warm up with playing soccer, but they placed their warmup 100 feet away from the Blue Jackets locker room.
Alternate captain RJ Umberger felt that this was an act of disrespect to the Jackets, so the Pittsburgh native decided to do wind sprints in between the Blues soccer game.
This would lead to some heated words between Umberger and the Blues players and arena security would later arrive before the event lead to something worse.
The Jackets would go out that night and dominant the Blues by a score of 8-1. Umberger, as well as Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette all tallied goals as well as Chris Clark, who was able to score two goals.
The remaining games between the Jackets and Blues would be intense and a simple soccer warm-up could have caused the birth of a heated rivalry.
3) A February Catapult Into the Playoff Hunt
The Blue Jackets ended the 2010 year with a three-game winning streak. However, the Jackets would start the new year on a bad note, losing seven of their first eight games in 2011.
At that point, Columbus would be sellers come trade deadline and would quickly be eliminated from the playoff hunt.
But Columbus did not call it quits early. The Jackets would fight back, winning eight of their 12 games in the month of February.
They would find themselves still on the outside looking in on the playoff bar, but the deficit was slim. With a few added components at the trade deadline, the Jackets could find themselves in the playoffs for the second time in their 10 years as a franchise.
4) Matt Calvert's First Career Hat Trick
At the beginning of 2011, the Jackets decided to call up 21-year old Matt Calvert to fill the holes in the lineup due to injuries to wingers Ethan Moreau and Kristian Huselius.
He would score his first NHL goal in a 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Calvert would become an everyday player for the Jackets and when Columbus played their best hockey in February, Calvert was one of the key pieces scoring eight goals.
But Calvert's career best would come when the Phoenix Coyotes came to Nationwide Arena three days before the trade deadline. Several people had said the last few games before the trade deadline would show whether or not the Jackets would be buyers or sellers come the trade deadline.
Well, Calvert proved to the front office himself that the team was for real, scoring his first career NHL hat trick and leading the Jackets to 5-3 win. At this point, the Columbus faithful had begun to rally around their team and the empty seats in Nationwide Arena had become scarce.
The vibes of playoff hockey had come a few months early for the Blue Jackets and it was a beautiful sight to see.
5) Acquisition of Scottie Upshall
Now that the Jackets defined themselves as buyers at the trade deadline, they looked to find the missing pieces they needed to make their playoff push. Preferably, they looked to find a offensive minded defenseman and a top line center to line up next to captain Rick Nash.
At the end of the trade deadline on February 28th, the Jackets had acquired neither of the missing pieces, but they had traded for the services of winger Scottie Upshall.
Upshall, along with defenseman Sami Lepisto, came to Columbus and the franchise's first ever draft pick Rostislav Klesla would go to Phoenix.
Known for his offensive skill as well as his toughness, Upshall got right to work, scoring in his first game ever as a Blue Jacket. He would prove to be an important asset for the team during the final games of the season.
Even though the team struggled and would later be mathematically eliminated, Upshall put everything he had into every shift for the team and would act as motivation for the rest of the team.
Upshall will be a free agent come July and if the Blue Jackets are smart, they will look to resign him.
So as the season has come and gone and the fans begin to look towards the draft as well as free agency, it is clear that there were some bright spots in the unsuccessful season and hopefully it will lead to progress come October.
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