Monday, December 06, 2004

Columbus Blue Jackets: Team of the Future

When people think of a "hockey hotbed" surely Columbus, Ohio comes to mind. Of course, they have the Ohio State hockey team that is starting to produce hockey talent, but the team that occupies the Nationwide Arena. The Columbus Blue Jackets. Or as I like to call 'em... the "BJ"s.

The team is certainly starting to grow on me as far as level of interest. While I was playing the EA Sports hockey game, I started to realize that the Blue Jackets are soon to be one of hockey's premier teams. How do I know this? Well, since the Blue Jackets are one of the youngest teams in the league, they have experienced the growing pains of an expansion franchise. With the NHL draft rules the way they are, the "BJs" have taken advantage and drafted well. They hold half the monopoly (along with the Florida Panthers) of the future stars in the NHL.

Rick Nash, Nikolai Zherdev, and "Rusty" Klesla are all first round draft picks that have cracked the lineup. Nash, number 61, is a top line scorer who made the All-Star game in Minnesota last season is primed to become the team's star and captain. He seems to benefit a lot from the system he's in and he's still so young. Speaking of young, Nik Zherdev, breaking taboo's wearing jersey number 13, was well worth the trouble for the organization trying to tear Zherdev away from his military commitments to Russia and their hockey program. He took the NHL by the throat posting an impressive 34 points (13 goals 21 assists) in his rookie year. Klesla is a solid defenceman after 4 seasons of work is worthy to have been made the first ever draft pick by the Blue Jackets in 2000.

All the team needs now is one more free agent veteran to basically put people in the seats and a true puck stopping goalie between the pipes. They just picked up "Irritable" Irbe and Marc Denis isn't quite living up to his billing as "Roy's heir-apparent" in Colorado. The team also should find a replacement for Daryl Sydor's talents. Trading him to Tampa was only good for Tampa.

I love the Blue Jacket's alternate logo, it replaced the cartoonish mascot they started out with. I think they really reflected the spirit of the Ohio community in the third jersey. Expect that jersey to be a top seller if it isn't already one.

The Blue Jackets are indeed the team of the future. They don't have much to contend with in the Central Division. Only Detroit has had a strangle hold on it for years, but the Blues and Blackhawks are having rebuilding years while the Predators are just starting to grow too.

Don't be surprised if one year the Blue Jackets make a "Cinderella run" deep into the playoffs in year or two. They have the talent!
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