Players are skating, and NHL training camps begin soon. So we are warming up our emotional engines to conjure all the irrational excitement, hatred and other strongly worded feelings that accompany an eight-month devotion to watching men making billions playing a game.
We've begun with an easy fan game: On even our worst rivals, which player(s) do you (grudgingly, or guiltily) appreciate? And of course, to cleanse your soul of such impure thoughts, which player do you hate most?
Today's team: The Columbus Blue Jackets
Hate: Hmmm, lest you think this series is solely an excuse to spew bile (well, it is mostly that), we bring you now a team that should be hateable soon...but isn't quite yet.
When I think of the Blue Jackets, I think of a little team that could, long crippled by the one-two punch of a tough division and poor goaltending. Through a variety of circumstances, they've now addressed both: Realignment and Sergei "Not Mason" Bobrovsky.
Expansion-wise, they did a lot right in terms of building their market. It's not their fault Doug MacLean was at the helm for their most pivotal on-ice decisions, which ultimately undid a lot of the goodwill they developed in their early years.
I even kind of like their former Rangers, as Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were both underrated player when shed to Ohio in the Rick Nash trade. (Okay, Dubinsky's a bit of a weasel, but an effective rather than dirty weasel.)
I've looked their roster up and down and having trouble finding someone to loathe (though again, I'm sure this will all change with further Metro encounters). Mark Letestu barely retains the stench of Penguin, sure Jared Boll is kind of disposable (I'm sure he's "good in the room" though), Jack Johnson has been tagged as "overrated" for so long that his rating might just be normalizing, I've heard some complaints about Nick Foligno but only barely remember them.
(Even when they were in the Central and I saw them more against the Blues, I couldn't really conjure much ill will, other than mocking Nash.)
I give up. I'm going to leave my Most Hated Blue Jacket as a "player to be named later." But it will come later, surely. Hockey breeds it.
As for Love/Envy? Oh, make no mistake, I envy the CBJ their Ryan Johansen (who came this close to falling to the Isles in 2010), though his inflated contract negotiating stance this summer is a mark against the next generation of entitled post-millennials.
Meanwhile, it's hard not to hold a soft spot for James Wisniewski for um, well, telling Avery to shove it.
And you? Which Blue Jacket do you hate most, and which one to you kinda, you know, privately, think is an alright guy? (You can base this on talent, admiration for a certain skillset, traditional passion-fueled fan hate and jealousy, or, I don't know, facial expressions.)