Opinion: Blue Jackets’ daring strategy should be applauded regardless of result
Everyone should root for the Columbus Blue Jackets to make the playoffs with the hope that their success might bring full-blown competitiveness back in style to the NHL.
This trade season, the Blue Jackets committed to the notion that winning today matters more than what may happen tomorrow. They didn’t trade two key players (Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky) whose contracts are expiring this offseason.
Instead, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made four trades that included draft picks and prospects for four rental players to make the playoffs this season.
That might have been business as usual in a previous era. But that is considered a daring approach in today’s NHL when fan bases seem to find as much joy chasing the No. 1 draft pick as qualifying for the postseason. Plus, general managers tend to be more on the conservative side during in-season trading.
In today’s NHL, as soon as a team starts slowly, fans immediately start suggesting that it would be best for the franchise if the team lost enough to be in the hunt for the No. 1 pick. We saw that this season in Los Angeles and Chicago.
More columns:Read more commentary from columnist Kevin Allen
SPORTS, DELIVERED:Get latest news right in your inbox!
Blue Jackets forward Matt Duchene (95) celebrates with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) after a win. (Photo: Fred Chartrand, AP)
Remember how gleeful Buffalo fans were when Sabres' losses were piling up before the Connor McDavid sweepstakes?
It is far more acceptable – some might argue more desirable – for teams to embrace partial or full rebuilding efforts. Fans expect teams to trade way potential unrestricted free agents rather than risk letting them walk away without receiving anything for them. Plenty of New York Islanders fans believed their team should have traded John Tavares last spring.
Rebooting is such an acceptable NHL strategy that the New York Rangers even made a formal announcement to fans of their rebuilding plans last season.
We don’t try to plug holes or improve depth or shore up the defense anymore. We just start over.
Sometimes sacrificing now for the future is the perfect plan. Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, who rebuilt and are now big contenders in the Eastern Conference.
But we may have gone too far with our emphasis on planning for tomorrow. We now live in a bizarre world where fans sometimes seem more worried about the future than they are the present.
That’s why it was refreshing to see the Blue Jackets give up seven draft picks, including two first-rounders, plus three prospects and Anthony Duclair to land four players (Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kinkaid, Adam McQuaid) who are set to be free agents in the offseason. When the first deal was made, the Blue Jackets were one point out of a playoff spot.
But Blue Jackets have plenty of reasons to risk some assets in pursuit of a playoff berth.
► First, they have only made the playoffs four times in 17 seasons in Columbus.
► Second, the Blue Jackets have a good team, with a coach in John Tortorella who has had success in the postseason, including winning a Stanley Cup.
► Finally, the lower-seeded playoff teams have, historically, a decent chance to win. Since the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the division semifinals changed from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven format, lower-seeded teams are 93-155 (37.5% win rate) in the first round. In the No. 2 vs. No. 7 matchup from 1994 to 2013, the lower-seeded team was 17-21 (44.7%).
In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings were a No. 8 seed when they won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. In 2017, the Nashville Predators were the last wild-card qualifier in the Western Conference and reached the Stanley Cup Final.
If you qualify the playoffs, you receive more than a slim chance to win at least a round in the NHL. Aggressiveness has its reward.
Which all leads back to this: The Blue Jackets aren’t in the playoffs right now. They are 4-3 since the trading began and are still two points out.
But regardless if they make the playoffs, they should be applauded for their unflinching effort. We don't watch the NHL to see who can accumulate the best collection of future prospects. We watch to see who can win tonight.
Source: Read Full Article