I remember a time when I looked toward the next hockey season with trepidation. I would anxiously await the offseason, only to be disappointed by the number and quality of their acquisitions. Then I would watch as my beloved Blue Jackets get off the pad quickly, flame out and eventually fall back to Earth in another fireball of broken hopes and dreams.
Come to think of it, that time was only a couple of months ago.
This offseason seems to be changing up that sad flight plan, however, giving me and other Jackets fans the hope that they won’t crash and burn yet again.
Finally getting a big time center was huge. Pass first, shoot first, it really didn’t matter who the Blue Jackets got. Jeff Carter may not be ideal to play on the same line with Rick Nash, but he is definitely ideal to play on the same team. A proven scorer on a team that traditionally can’t score is a very big improvement.
A defenseman who can not only move and shoot the puck effectively, but also do so on the power play was sorely needed.
James Wisniewski may not be disciplined defensively, but as long as he doesn’t play puck giving traffic cone defense like so many Jackets did last year (Stralman, Hejda, Commodore), he can’t be any worse. The fact that he scores points is enough, something they’ve lacked since their inception.
Even the under-the-radar moves have been exciting. Radek Martinek is a very solid defender when healthy, which he is most often not. If he stays healthy, they will have a good defensive defenseman, if not one of the kids like John Moore will get their shot like Grant Clitsome did a year ago.
The situation in goal may have gotten better too. Mark Dekanich will backup Steve Mason next year. A promising young goalie, he may even push Mason for the starting job. It could finally light the fire that’s been missing in his game since his rookie season. There’s nothing like competition to make people work harder at getting better.
The most intriguing and needed moves were the ones involving Nikita Filatov and Jakub Voracek. Both are highly talented young hockey players. Both are also very lazy young hockey players. Neither wanted to work, Filatov all the time and Voracek before the season started.
Filatov forced his way onto the team when he wasn’t ready and forced his way out when he didn’t perform. Vorecek just didn’t perform. I hope they both succeed at their new clubs, but wouldn’t be surprised if they played the exact same way.
While the Jackets may not be Western Conference tyrants next year, they will be putting a better team on the ice than ever before. Gone are the prima donnas and aging veterans. In come the fresh faces willing to help the team succeed.
For the first time in years, I am actively looking forward to the hockey season. This year I won’t be waiting for the inevitable crash, though. This year I will, hopefully, be waiting to buy my playoff tickets.