Five things to expect in the Blue Jackets 2014-15 season
I now know what it sounds like when 18,970 people and 14 years of frustration explode at the same time.
Nick Foligno's OT game-winner in Game 4 of the playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins wouldn't have been such a huge moment for most teams. But the Columbus Blue Jackets are not most teams. They're my team. And that moment was everything there is to love about hockey.
The 2014-15 season kicks off tonight with new expectations. Here's a look at what's ahead.
Joey earns his keep
The team's contract negotiations with would-be-star center Ryan Johansen got ugly and public before a three-year deal was announced this week. Joey's agent wasn't exactly popular with Jackets fans, but if he builds on that 33-goal season, all is forgiven.
Have a Hartnell
The biggest off-season acquisition by far was left winger Scott Hartnell, acquired in a trade that sent R.J. Umberger to Philly and shocked Flyers fans. Power forward Hartnell waived a no-trade clause to come to Columbus, and he's dedicated to winning here. (F--- you, Jeff Carter). He also brings some much-needed playoff experience that could be vital this year.
O Captain, My Captain?
The Jackets also start their third straight season without a "C" on anyone's chest, though you can't argue with last year's success with shared leadership. Captaincy is largely symbolic, but it will be interesting to see if/when and who is named the first here since Rick Nash. My gut prediction? Brandon Dubinsky.
Finally seeing stars
It's tough to say which is the cruelest twist of fate that this franchise endured, but a strike-shortened 2013 wiped out what would have been the city's first NHL All-Star Game. Two years later (with the Winter Olympics in between), the best of the league will descend on Columbus on Jan. 24 and 25. It's a spotlight on the city to the hockey world, and a spotlight on hockey to the city. Win-win.
Merely reaching the playoffs is no longer enough for this team, and that's pretty damn exciting. Adding Hartnell is a huge piece, but also remember that injuries limited Nathan Horton to 36 games in his first year as a Jacket. Johansen's a budding star. Boone Jenner looks like he could be. Throw in one of the league's best goaltenders in Sergei Bobrovsky, and we could be seeing a lot of springtime playoff hockey.