COLUMBUS - While other recent expansion teams such as the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning gear up for the playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets are once again making tee times and flight arrangements to go home.
The Blue Jackets have played six seasons and have never been involved in a postseason game - the only team left in the NHL who can make that dubious claim.
The club has tried filling the lineup with guys barely old enough to grab a libation from a Nationwide Arena vendor, and has also attempted to sign 30-something veterans who can lead the way to the promised land of the playoffs.
Instead, the Blue Jackets have never come closer than 19 points from a playoff spot and have never finished a year within 40 points of the franchise they have tried to emulate, the mighty Detroit Red Wings.
“We have to grow into winners,” forward Jody Shelley said.
Columbus closed out the year with a 33-42-7 record, better than only six teams in the league. As has become an annual occurrence, the Blue Jackets got off to a horrible start, winning just six of their first 24 games. Coach Ken Hitchcock replaced the fired Gerard Gallant and went 28-29-5 the rest of the way.
“It's going to be a tough summer,” star forward Rick Nash said. “We have to stay in shape. We've got to start in September, instead of in past years we've been building when December and January comes around. Next year it has to be different.”
Pascal Leclaire were one big reason for another spring watching the playoffs on TV.