Last Monday we were looking at a four game week and the hope of being 4-7-1 as we stand (and fight) here today. The Blue Jackets ended up going 2-2, winning both of their home games and dropping two on the road. It's not good enough to extricate themselves from the grave they have dug for themselves, but it represents a major breakthrough and hopefully signals that this team is beginning to come together the way GM Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel envisioned it would entering the season.
|Boo! The CBJ are 2-9-1, which is scary bad.|
Speaking of The Scotts, the heat was turned up on their respective electric seat cushions this weekend when Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reported on his blog that both could be relieved of their duties as early as today. Portzline went on to suggest that former CBJ coach Ken Hitchcock might be tagged to replace Arniel and that former Calgary Flames GM Craig Button might be replacing Howson. Needless to say, Porty's blog post caused quite a stir in Columbus and throughout the NHL. By the end of yesterday, there were the obligatory denials by all parties involved. No big surprise there. And so the plot thickens.
Perhaps the rumors predicting the fall of The Scotts Empire made an impact. The team called a "players only" meeting three hours before Sunday's game against Anaheim, after which the players voiced their unification behind each other and the organization, which is to say Arniel and Howson. They proceeded to go out and play one of their most complete games of the season, winning 3-1 and effectively adding mud to the water. Did the win buy The Scotts some extra time or will the next few days turn out to be the calm before the storm?
With all that bubbling below the surface, Blue Jackets fans can look forward to the following this week:
- It's D-Day for Ryan Johansen. After playing in the allotted nine games, Howson must now decide whether he stays in Columbus for the season or is sent back to Portland for another year of juniors. Last Sunday, after the Ottawa Debacle, and based on the limited amount of ice time that Arniel was giving the young phenom-in-waiting, I opined that it was looking more likely that a return to Portland was in the offing. Since that time, Johansen was given significant time on the second forward line. He also netted the game-winner last night against Anaheim on a slick backhand move that hinted at his immense upside as a playmaker. In fact, he has scored both game winners in the team's two wins. During the four games last week, RyJo averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time per game, an increase of more than 2 minutes per game over his first five games. So is Arniel easing him into the lineup for the long haul or was it RyJo's last chance to prove he belongs? And if the latter, did he make his case? Howson finds himself in a precarious position with respect to how this decision plays with the fan base. Sending Johansen down will be interpreted that the Blue Jackets are more concerned about the future than the present and are essentially cashing out this season. If that happens, the rumors of Arniel's (and possibly Howson's) impending demise will certainly reach a boiling point. For what it's worth, at least one blogger in Portland (where they have been following this matter closely) believes that RyJo can start looking for an apartment in Columbus.
- How does 4-9-1 sound? That's as good as it can be a week from now with only two games on the schedule between now and then. On Thursday, the Jackets welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to Nationwide. The Leafs are one of the surprise success stories (so far) in the league and start the week with a 7-3-1 record while going 2-3-0 on the road. On Saturday the Jackets travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers (6-4-1 overall; 3-3-1 at home). Given that 1) the Jackets are riding a two game win streak at home (yeah, it feels strange to type that) and 2) Philly is encountering some goaltending issues that would make even Jackets fans cringe, a two game sweep for the week is certainly achievable.
- There isn't going to be any kind of announcement for another month, but the Blue Jackets and their fans continue to monitor the ongoing discussion regarding NHL realignment. A proposal is gaining steam that would result in four conferences, inter-divisional playoffs in the first round and a lot less travel to the west coast for the CBJ.
Have a safe Halloween and a great (and winning) week!