Following an extended period of success for the minor league ice hockey team, the Columbus Chill, throughout the 90s, the Ohio city sought to build an NHL franchise to compete against the top hockey teams in North America. Joining the league with the Minnesota Wild in 2000, the Columbus Blue Jackets were constructed through an expansion draft, enabling to pick from unprotected players on other teams. As such, guys like Geoff Sanderson, Ron Tugnutt, and Lyle Odelein became early members of the squad, in addition to their high draft pick Rostislav Klesla.
While the team was able to play in the brand new Nationwide Arena, their play hardly reflected the nice stadium in those early seasons. The Blue Jackets would have 7 straight losing seasons and miss out on the NHL Playoffs in each of those years.
In their second year they acquired left wing player Ray Whitney, who would become their most productive playmaker for several seasons. In 2002, the Columbus Blue Jackets used the top draft pick to get Rick Nash, who would become the team’s key player for the next decade. In addition to scoring lots of goals and making incredible plays, Nash would bring hope to a team not accustomed to winning.
While it took some time for him to develop and the dominoes to fall into place, the Blue Jackets finally reached the postseason in 2009. During the season, several key trades brought in guys like Jason Williams, Antoine Vermette, and Mike Commodore, who had signed prior to the season’s start.
But while the team reveled in their success, the reality was that the first round matchup involved the prior season’s Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, and Columbus lost the series in a 4-game sweep. In the subsequent seasons, the Blue Jackets would again slump, hovering just below .500 and failing to make the grade for the NHL postseason.
By 2012, the team needed to make changes and they deal away Rick Nash for several youngsters in Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon. Still young, these players finally have begun to produce in recent months. But the other big move that year was for goalkeeper Sergei Bobrovsky, a key young player who is among the best in the entire NHL.
Amongst other great players who have arrived such as Ryan Johansen, James Wisniewski, and Cam Atkinson, Columbus has established a pretty competitive team. They nearly made the playoffs in the 2012-2013 strike-shortened season, and eventually managed the feat for a second time in franchise history in 2014, qualifying for the postseason behind some incredible goaltending from Bobrovsky.
However, once again the team faced a tough matchup in the first round against the Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins. In one of the more memorable NHL playoff series of recent years, both teams had monumental comebacks and the series was even at 2-2 after 4 games. However, the Blue Jackets couldn’t keep up their momentum and they eventually lost out in 6 games. Nevertheless, in winning several NHL postseason games, Columbus finally proved capable of competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
With a great young goalie and with several fine goal-scoring players, the future looks bright for the Columbus Blue Jackets. While it is always hard to establish a new NHL franchise, and it certainly takes some time and growing pains, the Blue Jackets finally look ready to really contend for and perhaps one day win the Stanley Cup!
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