It's New Year's Eve which means the Jackets have a home game tonight, and there's plenty of "What happened last year?" articles and stories to partake. May as well add one of my own...the Jackets year in review.
Rapid fire style...
- Season ends on a high note, Hitch coaches just under .500 as coach, Norrena becomes first winning goalie in franchise history.
- Doug MacLean is fired.
- Repeat: Doug MacLean is fired.
- Hope is restored.
- Scott Howson hired as GM.
- Columbus hosts draft, the capacity crowd gives John H. McConnell a 5 minute standing ovation.
- Doug MacLean remains fired.
- Hitchcock opens training camp with the team in the best condition its ever been in.
- Rick Nash is confirmed to be a monster.
- Team has hottest start ever, the fans celebrate October rather than praying for it to end.
- Howson's budget minded acquisitions of Jan Hejda, Jiri Novotny, and Michael Peca pay dividends to the team. Later, Howson acquisition Chris Beech is called up and eventually rises to the first line.
- Nikolai Zherdev emerges as a dominant force on the ice rather than the pouting force we'd seen in previous years.
- Team lapses from hot start, but remains in the hunt when Santa delivers toys around the globe.
- Nikolai Zherdev makes Carolina defense look silly in a two goal, two assist effort on Dec 29.
And that brings us to this evenings game with the Oilers...the last game of the year. A year that saw as much change in Columbus since Bettman stood at a podium in '97 and said we were getting a team. A complete turnover in the front office has provided a new direction, and they offered no empty promises other than we'd be, "a hard team to play against." So far, so good...
Win or lose tonight, the Jackets will enter '08 above the .500 mark. A win at home combined with Detroit knocking off the Blews would have the Jackets sitting 9th heading into the new year. Not too bad for a team that's typically looking forward to golfing by now.
If '08 brings similar changes, then Jacketland might be celebrating their first playoff trip in a few months...