Win-Win Fandom: Hoping for the Number One Pick, Cheering for a Stanley Cup

By Chris Pennington on June 29, 2020 at 8:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (middle) celebrates with teammate center Pierre-Luc Dubois (left) and right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (right) after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There have been a lot of dark days as a Columbus Blue Jackets fan. Trust me, this is not one of them.

Seriously. This is a great time - well, aside from the season being suspended. When (and hopefully when) it starts back up, the possible endings for the Blue Jackets' current season all have a silver lining (or are inherently great). They are...

  • Stanley Cup Victory
  • Mid-Level Playoff Run
  • Qualifying Round Exit

These are all (potentially) great outcomes. Here's why.

Stanley Cup Victory

The only way this outcome to the Blue Jackets' 2019-2020 campaign will be even remotely discouraging is the potential asterisk that could be put on it by guys like Steve Dangle. But we ought not to listen to them.

I'm slowly becoming convinced that whichever team wins the Cup this year, that asterisk will be shrugged off in a matter of a few years. Recency bias is the (in this case, fortunate) plague of the sports world, as fans and media are way too quick to forget the context. In short, people may go wild after a Stanley Cup champion is crowned, saying it's the "COVID Cup", but they will move on...I hope. 

All this to say, the Blue Jackets winning the Stanley Cup would be so great. Just so great.

Mid-Level Playoff Run

This one honestly might be the least desirable outcome of all those possible. Let's say the Blue Jackets win the qualifying round, and then lose in the first round of the actual playoff or even the conference semifinals. This would be a bummer, but it wouldn't be all for loss.

Playoff experience is huge for any team, and a team as young as the Blue Jackets getting that ice time will be crucial as they continue to grow and recover from their free agency departures last year. Getting a few rounds of the postseason for faces like Emil Bemstrom, Alexandre Texier, Elvis Merzlikins, Joonas Korpisalo, Dean Kukan, Vladislav Gavrikov (and possibly even Kevin Stenlund, Andrew Peeke and Eric Robinson) will be monumental for their development in the coming years.

This all, and it'll just be exciting for us fans. Even though the Blue Jackets have never made it past the second round, and the Stanley Cup is certainly the goal, I often find myself watching playoff highlights from every year Columbus has been in it. It's just fun, and I'll remember those moments, even if they were not directly about winning championships. It also may draw in free agents (hint, hint, Taylor Hall) to come to be a part of a franchise who got right back up on its feet after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Qualifying Round Exit

While this is likely the least desirable outcome for most fans, there's now a strong silver lining to it. Since the NHL announced that any qualifying-round-losing-team now has a 12.5% chance to nab the first overall pick in this year's draft, losing doesn't sound so bad after all.

So now, even if Columbus gets swept by the Toronto Maple Leafs, we can be hopeful that they have a legitimate shot at getting Alexis Lafreniere, and bulking up even more as a team on the rise. It would aid for the quick rebuild that Jarmo Kekelainen and company had hoped for, and potentially propel the Blue Jackets right back into championship contention that they were just bumped out of.

Obviously, this is a tough outcome in the sense that it's still only a *shot* at the first overall draft pick, and the most likely result is that the Blue Jackets would get their normal pick. And even in this scenario, they're just back to square one, and being one of the youngest teams in the league with a stellar defense and goaltending unit and lots of cap space, is not a bad spot to be in.

Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I honestly am okay with that based on what 2020 has looked like for all of us. I could look at all of these scenarios with a glass-half-full perspective, but why not look at the positives in all of these outcomes? We can go on only enjoying our sports teams when the championships come, or we could be pumped about the moments in between and enjoy the ride.

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