It was a slow night as far as news goes. So as I was kicking around various sites and headlines, I noticed the Calgary Flames put up a touchdown on the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 6-0 blanking. And then looking under the hood, I saw that the Jackets surrendered 62 shots. 62.
Do you know how hard it is to give up more than a shot per minute in an NHL game? Keep in mind you should get a couple power-plays, maybe even a few, which are two-minute segments when a team shouldn’t give up a shot at all. The Jackets only had one power-play, but didn’t give up a shot throughout that, so that’s 62 shots in 58 minutes. Attempts? Sure. But shots on goal? You’d think enough of your players would just wander/stumble into blocking a shot often enough to keep you off a shot against per minute pace.
You have to actively flee shooting lanes or maybe even fire the puck at your own goalie to reach 60+ shots in a game. It’s a franchise record for the Flames, who have been playing in the NHL for 50 years. Even in the go-go 80s, when the Flames likely had the second-best team in the league for a decade next to the Oilers and most everyone was dick-in-the-dirt drunk, they didn’t manage 60 shots in a game.
And then I got to thinking that this might be the most poignant thing the Jackets have ever done. Because, is there a more irrelevant franchise in any sport than the Jackets? They’ve been in existence for 22 years. The Golden Knights have been in existence for less than five. Vegas has won six more playoff series in its history than the Jackets have.
And you may think that there are plenty of perennially bad teams in the NHL, in sports, too. Ones that can’t ever seem to get it right. The Coyotes are always seemingly fucked. The Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since Letterman was on NBC. Mostly you have to be reminded the Ducks exist.
Except that the Coyotes at least do everyone the favor of being a comedy act every so often. They’re so bad, and so poorly run, that they make the news for that. Their instability gets them into the consciousness on occasion. You can identify something about them. The Panthers got to a Final once, might have the best team in the East now, and a rapper might or might not have had sex in in the luxury suites. Reports out of Anaheim say the Ducks actually won a Cup once, and got to another Final before that. They even had some Hall of Famers play for them. I know, wonders never cease.
What do you know about the Blue Jackets? They’ve never had arena problems, as they’ve always played in a fairly nice building in downtown Columbus. It has a cannon you may have heard beat writers complain about. That’s probably the extent of your Nationwide Arena knowledge.
(Quick story, my brother worked in an office in Nationwide Arena for a while. When he was interviewing for the job he jokingly asked his boss if there was some secret door that led you to the upper deck or something. His boss said, “Oh yeah it’s right there.”)
Who’s the most identifiable player in Jackets history? Has to be Rick Nash… and he hasn’t played in Columbus in 10 years. He’ll probably end up a Hall of Famer, because everyone makes the Hockey Hall of Fame, and especially if you were on Team Canada in 2010 and 2014. It’s like an automatic. Those two tournaments were also the only times Nash was interesting in any way, unless you count Rangers fans bitching about him. But Rangers fans bitch about everyone.
Other than that? Sergei Bobrovsky?
Oh sure, Jackets fans, wherever they may be, will point out that the Jackets authored the greatest playoff upset in history when they beat the 126-point Lightning in 2019. Swept them, even. Only playoff series win ever. But hey, Maryland Baltimore-County beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney once, the only ever to do that. Do we ever think of UMBC again? We do not. And everyone’s fine with that. A college team like that is supposed to fade back into the ether. This is an NHL team we’re talking about.
No, the Jackets have existed in the margins or in the dark for pretty much their entire existence. Other than Nash, there’s never been another No. 1 pick to get excited about, another player who they could actually become relevant because of. They’re never so bad to be a story, and they’ve never been good. I’d say they’re the Grizzlies, but the Grizz have Ja Morant. The Sacramento Kings had the whole Chris Webber era. The Chargers moved, and have been to a Super Bowl. The Pirates were actually good and fun not that long ago, and then were at least a crime against baseball to keep their name alive.
The Jackets are Delaware. They’re a rest stop. They’re elevator music. They’re there, but you don’t know that they’re there. You have to be told they are. They’re deja vu except you can’t remember except it connects to no previous experience. They come and they go, and there’s no record really of either. They’re the Men In Blue, except they don’t really serve anyone or anything.
And you’ll forget them within 16 seconds of reading this.