Season pass: Blue Jackets 2009-10 recap
On Friday, I'll attend my 41st Blue Jackets home game of the 2009-10 season. And that will be that.
It's been a year since the franchise's first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and there's no spring playoff fever in Columbus. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Ol' Bill Shakespeare said it best: For Blue Jackets fans, it was the winter of our discontent, as raised expectations led to new levels of disappointment. But it wasn't all bad news (I promise) - here's a look back on the season that was.
Cleared for takeoff
The young Jackets come out of the gate strong in October and early November. They're scoring on the power play, winning games and are now found in the happy half of the standings. Sure, they're playing more open and giving up a few more goals, but I'm too busy trying to decide where I want to sit for the playoffs next spring.
To Russia, with love
Frustrated with his lack of playing time, top-prospect winger Nikita Filatov gets his wish and is loaned to a Russian team for the remainder of the season. I hate to see Nik go, but he wasn't contributing much, and, hey, we're winning!
Strike that. We were winning. A late-November swoon starts to erode that nice start. Then it gives way to a franchise-worst free fall and 21 losses in 24 games. My playoff tickets are in question before Christmas.
Unable to right the ship, the Jackets jettison revered Coach Ken Hitchcock at the beginning of February. It's strange not to see that familiar pear-shaped presence behind the bench. My imaginary playoff tickets are already gone.
The first with Noel
Interim coach Claude Noel and his absent-minded professorisms spark a new, more relaxed look in the young players. The team gathers some nice wins before the Olympic break, behind some familiarly stellar goaltending by Steve Mason.
In a storybook USA vs. Canada matchup, Team Canada's Rick Nash gives a national hockey audience a "how do you do?" and ends up all smiles and gold medals. My national allegiance is torn, but it's the best Blue Jacket moment of the year.
Better luck next year?
As we close a disappointing season, I have questions aplenty. Will the team stay in Columbus? (Yes.) Will sophomore slumpers Steve Mason, Derick Brassard and Jake Voracek rebound? (Almost certainly.) Will Nikita Filatov return? (Most likely.)
And where will my imaginary playoff tickets be next year? (I never run out of hope.)
Highlight & lowlights
That March 25 cannon-smoke-filled 8-3 drubbing of Chicago was a blast, but a 1-0 OT win on Dec. 28 over the hated Detroit Red Wings helped ease the pain of a losing streak.
On Nov. 11, said hated Red Wings scored a goal about a minute in and four goals in the opening period on their way to a 9-1 win that got painful to watch.
Blue Jackets season finale vs. Detroit Red Wings
When: 7 p.m. Friday, April 9
Where: Nationwide Arena, Arena District