FSO talks to Davidson and Kekalainen: Part 2
JAN 17, 2014 9:07a ET
In last year's lockout-shortened season of 48 games, Columbus finished at 24-17-7 (55 points), just missing out on a second trip to the playoffs in their short history as a franchise. They are now in the midst of their first full season as a member of the Eastern Conference in the Metropolitan Division. They play their 47th game of the season tonight against the visiting Washington Capitals.
Through 46 games, they are 22-20-4 (48 points) and are riding a four game winning streak. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and have a goal differential of -2. They didn't get the good start that they wanted for the season and rode a rollercoaster of resounding wins and bad losses through October and November. This is part of the maturation process that the youngest team in the league is going through.
It is now January and there are 12 games for them to play before they break for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. They are currently sixth in the Metro and have games in hand on all five teams ahead of them. They sit just five points out from third place in the division and four points out of a wild card spot. Every single game has big ramifications in a division that was mediocre at the start of the season, but which has gained momentum lately.
The boys in Union Blue have steadied the ship in recent weeks and are playing with more consistency as they try and move up in the standings.
"We're a little bit healthier, which helps", said President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. "We're very young and that's part of the growth process. It's not an excuse, it's a fact. What I want to see as we move along here is for our young players to continue to get better."
Through the first two months of the season, Columbus played 27 games and won just 10 of them. They were 5-6-0 in October and went 5-8-3 in November. 10-14-3 in the first third of the season was not the way they wanted to start.
"We've seen rollercoaster games and rollercoaster times for us all season. We're going to be challenged. We want to watch and see who plays well and who doesn't, to see which young players get something out of it."
"No matter where we go this season, the idea is to get better for the big picture. That means that a lot of our young payers simply have to get better. They can't regress. We're seeing some pretty good growth here, which is what I'm looking for."
While the team wants to win every game, the key to keep in mind is that John Davidson and the rest of the front office are building a team that will pay dividends in the not-too-distant future. Yes, they want to win now. But, they won't sacrifice "bricks" for a short-term gain. The goal that has become part of the fabric of the club is to be a perennial playoff team and contender for the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup.
Within just a couple of years, they will still be a young team, but will have experience. Defenseman Ryan Murray and center Boone Jenner are still rookies playing in their first season in the NHL. Center Ryan Johansen and right winger Cam Atkinson are playing just their third seasons. These are just some of the players John Davidson is excited about as the club moves forward and gains respect around the league.
"There's more than that though", he said. "Johansen has a big upside. There are others, too, that have upsides. Then there are kids that are still playing junior (hockey) or playing in Europe. (Alexander) Wennberg would be one, for sure. He's a very skilled player, very smart. He's a great skater. He's smart with the puck and has power play smarts. You know, things along those lines."
While doing what's right for the club and keeping his eye on the current play of the team, John Davidson is focused on the big picture moving forward.
"We want to make sure that we get as much as we can out of the season right now. We want to get into the playoff hunt, which we are, although we had a slow start (to the season). We've got to continue and keep going."
Although patience has been a word bandied about for years regarding this franchise, the future is as bright as it has ever been. The young core, coupled with some of the more veteran players, give hope to a fan base that wants a winner. Between John Davidson, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of management, the Blue Jackets are moving forward with purpose and direction. These are heady times, indeed.