Back in March, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Columbus “really has no professional sports team.”
Well that simply is not true. Not only is there a professional sports team in Columbus — there are two, in fact — and one is getting primed for the postseason.
The Blue Jackets, in their first season as a member of the NHL’s Eastern Conference, are headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sure, it’s possible the Jackets didn’t look too much like a professional team for the majority of their 14-year existence. After all, this season marks just their second playoff trip in franchise history. And in that first trip, back in 2009, they failed to win a game, as they were swept at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings.
But things are starting to change with the Jackets, as they make sure Meyer and everyone else ignoring them realize that they are, indeed, a professional team.
The Jackets were professional in last year’s lockout-shortened season, finishing the year on a 19-5-3 run, and just barely missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
The Jackets looked even more professional this season, registering 43 wins and 93 points, both franchise records. That was good enough for seventh best in the Eastern Conference.
The Jackets have a stellar netminder. Sergei Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner for the NHL’s best goaltender, has been special again this season, posting a 22-9-3 record since returning from a groin injury Jan. 6. A writer for ESPN.com’s fantasy hockey spin wrote Bobrovsky is a goalie “capable of stealing games and even entire series.”
The Jackets have a bonafide star on the first line, filling the shoes of former Jacket and current New York Ranger Rick Nash, in Ryan Johansen. Johansen, at just 21 years of age, has stepped up as one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL, with 33 goals and 63 points on the year. Those are good to be tied for 11th and 34th in the league, respectively.
The Jackets enjoy talented, professional forward depth behind Johansen, as well. The Jackets have eight players total with more than 10 goals, and two more with nine apiece. Artem Anisimov and Cam Atkinson have each eclipsed 20 goals on the season.
Their defensemen aren’t too shabby, either. James Wisniewski set a franchise record for assists by a defenseman in a single season with 44. Jack Johnson, even in what is considered an off year for him, is one of the most respected defensemen in the league. And Ryan Murray, who had just turned 20 when the season began, has shined in his rookie year. Two more defensemen, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin, were good enough to be selected to represent Russia in the Sochi Olympics, along with Anisimov and Bobrovsky.
So yes, Meyer, Columbus does have a professional team. And now that the Spring Game has passed, the only crowd roaring you hear will be coming from the direction of Nationwide Arena.
The Jackets are scheduled to battle against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round Wednesday in Pittsburgh.