What the Blue Jackets Must Do To Get Better

Andrew Jordan@@Andrew_JordanSenior Writer IApril 24, 2009

DETROIT - APRIL 18: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets tries to get around Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 18, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets lost 6-5 in game four of the Western Conference quarterfinals, and they were eliminated with that loss. However, Columbus cannot be upset about the fact that they finally have gone to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

They know they are going to have to do a lot of hard work to keep them there and there also are lots of things that the Blue Jackets must do to not miss the playoffs again. This is how they will become successful.

No. 1: DON'T be the Atlanta Thrashers

In the 2006-2007 season, the Atlanta Thrashers won the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference and were finally going to make it to the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. They had a healthy young goalie in Kari Lehtonen, and two great young superstars in Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk, and their future looked extremely bright. 

In the first round, they were playing the New York Rangers, who were the sixth seed, and weren't a good team until they got Sean Avery during the season. But the Thrashers got swept in the first round by the Rangers, and they then started to fall apart.

They had a terrible season the next year in which they finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference, and started to have major ownership issues on whether Steve Belkin and the other owners breached the ownership contract.

Also, they traded away pending free agent Hossa to Pittsburgh, where he went to the Stanley Cup Finals, and went to the Stanley Cup Champion Red Wings the following season.

The Thrashers haven't been the same team since then, and they know it will take several years until they will become a contender again. The Blue Jackets must keep their young superstars and also make sure that important veterans such as R. J. Umberger stay in order to make sure the team will thrive.

No. 2: Organization must be functional

The Blue Jackets have a beautiful arena in the Nationwide Arena, have a dedicated fanbase, and they have stable ownership. They have a general manager in Scott Howson who has helped build this team up in the last season, and several great players as well.

Also, with a great coach in Ken Hitchcock, who won a Stanley Cup as coach of the Dallas Stars, and has been with Columbus for several years, which has helped him know exactly what everyone could do.

The Blue Jackets now have to make sure they don't allow this core to be broken up, and no bad moves can be made that would break up the young talent on the team. Also, they must not do anything that would jeopardize the organization.

No. 3: Build around Rick Nash

Rick Nash, the face of the franchise and one of the best players in the NHL, is now the captain of the Blue Jackets, and Columbus has to build around him. Steve Mason is now the franchise goalie with Pascal Leclaire traded away to Ottawa, and the team has several veteran defensemen and several veteran forwards, which should balance out the young team.

Also, with players such as Kristian Huselius and Michael Peca there, the team should be able to score goals, as they did 220 times this year. As long as they do this, they will keep up what they have done in the last season.

This Columbus Blue Jackets team needs to realize they are going to have to face defeat before victory, especially after having to play Detroit in the first round. They also have to make sure that everything only gets better from here, and they don't end up like the Atlanta Thrashers. 

Finally, the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans know they have a team that can become better in the future and can be a major yearly contender for the Stanley Cup.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.