Shhhhhh...if the team doesn't hear us getting excited about them, they'll likely do well.
Recent history of the Columbus Blue Jackets shows that when the media and fans put big expectations and high hopes on the club before a playoff series or season, the team falters.
However, when the media and fans expect little-to-nothing and count the team out from the start, they seem to surprise everyone.
So, are we saying the Blue Jackets should aim to take on the underdog role every year?
...Maybe. Take a trip down memory lane with us and make the call yourself.
The Blue Jackets had just come off their first postseason birth since the 2008-2009 season. They won a big stretch of games towards the end of the regular season and took their older-brother Pittsburgh Penguins down to the wire in six playoff games, three of which went to overtime. The team was young, and many expected that the following year, the Blue Jackets would be the next team on the rise.
Feels like the entire West is somehow a Cup contender. In the East: door wide open and I wonder if Tampa or Columbus walks through it.— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) July 1, 2014
The Blue Jackets started off the next season riddled with horrible injury. This obviously was not a cause of high expectations, but even when they returned most of their roster, the team wasn't able to hit their stride until it was way too late. Even though they were almost mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by February, they ended up winning 15 of their final 17 games, potentially costing them Connor McDavid in the NHL Draft. We're not bitter still. Definitely not bitter.
The Blue Jackets were finally healthy again and based on the hot streak they ended the previous season on, the sky was the limit. They had retained essentially retained the same roster as the previous season and even added Brandon Saad via trade. Barring any injuries, the team was expected to jump back into playoff contention.
The club started off the season losing their first eight games, and the rest is history. Todd Richards was fired after the seventh game, and the John Tortorella era began. The club hobbled through most of the season, never gaining a rhythm to make a march for the postseason.
The Blue Jackets have now missed the playoffs in consecutive years, and aside drafting Zach Werenski and acquiring Seth Jones during the middle of the prior season, didn't do a whole lot to bolster their roster. Though those two have turned out to be studs, remember they were not expected to make as big of an impact as they did so quickly. So, the questions remained - would the Blue Jackets continue to struggle through mediocrity without a superstar forward or defenseman on the club?
The Blue Jackets then ripped off their greatest regular season in franchise history (to date). Their 108 points is a club record by ten points, and they had 14 players score over 23 points. Their 16-game win streak during the season was the longest in franchise history by a mile.
Columbus extends its win streak to 16 games, defeating Edmonton, 3-1.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 4, 2017
Blue Jackets: 1 game away from tying Penguins' 1993 record (17 gms). pic.twitter.com/VcQA5aie9A
The stage was set for the small-town team to make a name for themselves against Goliath. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who had bullied the Blue Jackets for years, were matched up with Columbus for the second time in four years. Though Pittsburgh had home-ice advantage, the Blue Jackets felt confident in their historic season.
Then, like clockwork, they obviously had to implode during the playoffs. They got dropped in five games by the Penguins, getting outscored 21-13 in the process.
Columbus Matt Calvert suspended one game for cross-checking Pittsburghs Tom Kuhnhackl. https://t.co/dHkqt2sBEV— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 15, 2017
Good news: Artemi Panarin had arrived, and the club finally had the superstar forward they had been longing for since Rick Nash departed. Their regular-season depth in the season prior proved to fail them in the playoffs, so the solution was clearly to get a star.
Even with the increase in offensive talent, the team dropped their production from the prior season and barely scratched their way into the postseason - clinching a spot with just one game remaining in the season.
Congratulations Columbus Blue Jackets on being the 14th team to clinch a 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff spot! https://t.co/MOwuihQJH1— Alan E Pettengill (@StanleyCupGuy) April 6, 2018
"Great", thought all fans. "We scrap our way to the playoffs just to either play the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Washington Capitals. Sounds great."
It's true - neither outcome looked good for the Blue Jackets. Though facing Pittsburgh would've been tough for its own reasons, facing off against Alexander Ovechkin and company wasn't necessarily any more desirable.
Against all expectations, the club jumped out to a 2-0 lead in miracle-overtime victories over the Capitals. Fans didn't know what to do with themselves. But before they could even audibly say "Could we win the series?", Washington bounced right back and won four games.
Despite being down 2-0 in the series, the Washington Capitals rebounded to win four straight games and take the first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. https://t.co/dpN8okA0JP— FOX43 Sports (@FOX43Sports) April 24, 2018
I don't think anyone knew what to expect going into this season. Yes, the team had retained almost the whole club, but the Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin unsettled contracts clearly was causing some internal drama. The club, on paper, was a playoff team, but no one knew if this meant one-seed or eight-seed.
The Athletic: Gut Punch | Before contract talks even begin, Artemi Panarin informs #CBJ that hes not ready to sign an extension; Blue Jackets testing trade market for 2019 UFA UPDATES w quotes, details https://t.co/bmSuupBxtf pic.twitter.com/EM3KFb9QjR— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) June 19, 2018
After a respectable start to the season, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel get added at the trade deadline, announcing the club as going "all-in" for a Stanley Cup.
The pressure was really on then. They then lost eight of their next 13 games.
Then the expectations dropped. Then they won seven of their final eight.
Like. Clock. Work.
The club was hot going in the postseason, but they, unfortunately, drew a date with the NHL's best Tampa Bay Lightning, who just finished up of the greatest regular-season teams in the history of the league. In the hockey world's mind, it was over before it even started.
NHL Eastern Conference playoff series odds:— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) April 7, 2019
Blue Jackets +275
Maple Leafs +135
Since the Blue Jackets supposedly had no shot of beating the Lightning, OF COURSE, they ended up sweeping them. Even after Columbus was up 3-0 in the series, no one felt safe. And they still pulled it off.
Finally, the expectations were back. If you can sweep Tampa Bay, you can win the Stanley Cup, right? Their odds jumped to tied-for-best to win it all. So, naturally, after being up 2-1 against the Boston Bruins and on the verge of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Blue Jackets lost three straight.
All the free agents are gone. Every national writer and sports betting agency is counting the Blue Jackets out for the playoffs.
By default, they'll win the Stanley Cup.
To be determined.
We can theorize why this happens all we want, but the bottom line is that expectations from fans, media and whoever are clearly influencing the Blue Jackets in some capacity. Will a fresh start and a new era for the team be what they need to healthily take on outside talk and not let it impact their game?
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