The Columbus Blue Jackets made some big moves in the offseason. For the first time since entering the league, they aggressively pursued the missing pieces of their regime. The acquisitions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski put a lot of promise on the horizon.
Unfortunately, injuries, suspension and atrocious goal-tending shut down hopes almost instantly.
That being said...Jackets fans, its time to look up!
It took 37 days and 15 games, but the new faces are finally in the lineup at the same time, and it's paying off immediately.
Jeff Carter's return from injury, while he didn't contribute offensively, sparked the team all around. The Blue Jackets won a hard-played game against the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 12, one which saw the other new additions, James Wisniewski and Vinny Prospal, each pick up a point.
The final score was 2-1, earning the Jackets just their third win of the season, with Steve Mason being the best player on the ice.
Yes, you read that right. Steve Mason.
Yesterday evening, we saw the second game with all of the weapons in place. The Blue Jackets took an early 2-0 lead against Minnesota, but let it slip and lost the game 4-2.
Steve Mason didn't play particularly well, but he has had much, much worse performances this season.
While they weren't able to pick up their second straight win, the bright spot in this game was the 45 shots the Jackets managed to put on net. Niklas Backstrom, the Minnesota netminder, played superbly and, without a doubt, single-handedly robbed Columbus of a much-deserved win.
Earlier in the season, I published an article called Steve Mason Headed Down a Familiar Path. It was about how if Mason didn't pick up his play, he could find himself in a backup role (either with the Jackets or elsewhere) or out of the NHL altogether.
Now that all of the offensive keys are in place, the window in which Mason has to improve his play has closed a great deal. A short leash doesn't even begin to describe the situation Mason is in at the moment.
If he can pull it together (which I strongly believe he will), the Blue Jackets season is still salvageable. The 12-point gap between the Jackets and the eighth spot in the west is a lot to overcome, but it's still early, and their offense, if healthy, can be very dangerous.
Columbus needs to see elite performances from every player on their roster if they are to perform a miracle; they cannot afford any slip-ups along the way.
As the season progresses, expect Steve Mason to push the Jackets to contend for eighth place. If he doesn't, don't expect to see him suiting up at the end of the season.