Hot damn do the Blue Jackets need to hang a banner in Nationwide Arena.
It’s been nearly two decades since the franchise was born and, a few months ago, they set a new high-water mark with 108 points. In a normal year — heck, literally any other year — they’re probably division champions and the opening night ceremony has some extra juice to it.
“Extra juice”…I’ve been listening to too much John Tortorella.
The Blue Jackets were a couple wins away from winning the NHL’s toughest division last season. It was the third-best season in the entire league and they finished their in their division. Good lord. You know the story by now: make the playoffs with 100-plus points, get punished for playing in a quality division and get a first-round date with the defending champions. Here’s the kicker: the division isn’t getting any easier, and the Blue Jackets need to be even better than they were last year. No one’s surprised by them anymore.
But back to the original point: is this Blue Jackets team capable of winning the Metropolitan Division?
Absolutely, 100 percent, yes.
Tortorella is all about seeing incremental goals and keeping the team focused on its daily task, but a real goal for the season should to be win the division. Become the first-ever Blue Jackets team to win SOMETHING and get to raise a banner the following season. That’s motivation, that’s something to drive toward as Tortorella looks to sniff out any bugs of complacency that arise after their breakout campaign.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was worried about the Blue Jackets prior the season. Honestly, I still am; it’s not that I don’t think they’re a good team. They’re a really good team. But I worry that the addition of Artemi Panarin (mixed with some of the offseason departures) won’t be enough to keep pace and pull ahead in the Metro.
But as we’ve gone along here and seen them win games in different ways, those worries get assuaged.
I think this group can win the Metro, and I think they will.
It’s tough to look at the early returns (four wins in five games) and start over-analyzing the Blue Jackets. They’re this, they’re that, they need more of this or that. But one thing they truly miss is the presence of alternate captain Boone Jenner, who hasn’t played at all this season due to a lingering back injury. Tortorella loves Jenner’s work along the walls and ability to retrieve pucks on the forecheck, and it’s been lacking in the first part of the year.
But could there be good news on the horizon? Jenner has returned to practice with the team in recent days and made the trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg. He’s reportedly been on the ice for practice this week, as well, signaling that he’s making progress toward a return. It would be huge for the Blue Jackets to get one of their foundational players back in the lineup, especially with intermittent concerns that they take a while to get emotionally attached to games.
The Brandon Dubinsky-Josh Anderson-insert other winger here line has taken up that job lately. They’ve been hellacious in the offensive zone and pissing people off every other shift. That’s what they need to do. Adding Jenner to the mix gives them another sturdy, tenacious element up front that also brings balance to their lineup.
The Blue Jackets have skill in their lineup. They have “bite,” as Tortorella calls it. What they need a little more of is skill with bite, and that’s exactly how I’d describe Jenner. When he’s healthy and on form, he’s a player who can score 20 goals. If he can provide somewhere in that range, the Blue Jackets may be in business.
I’m stoked for The Last Jedi for about a thousand different reasons. I love the stories, the backstories, the plot and everything in between.
So as I continue to watch the trailer and look for Easter eggs, I keep coming back to the story that ties Luke Skywalker with Supreme Leader Snoke. They have a history, we know that. It likely involves Luke’s Jedi Academy and Snoke either destroying it completely or having a hand in its most prized student turning to the Dark Side. Maybe both.
Could be completely wrong on this, but I feel like one of the movie’s final scenes will be a Luke-Snoke showdown. We’ll go the entire movie without seeing Luke back in action, as he’ll be positioned as a grumpy old hermit on an island who’s ready to forget his own past. But we’re not drawing Luke friggin Skywalker back into the Star Wars universe for him to be the pigeon man from Home Alone.
There’s something cooking here, and I can’t wait.