Remember the Columbus Blue Jackets? Oh right, Rick Nash came from there! After losing their star player in 2013, it hasn’t been an easy ride for CBJ. However, in the last few year’s this team has shown signs of becoming more stable. In the last five years, Columbus has only made one trip to the postseason. With the right results, 2016-17 could merit another visit. The hiring of Head Coach John Tortorella in 2015 was met with a mixed reception.
JT’s style of management has never been everyone’s cup of tea. Outspokenness and public shaming of players have caused friction in past jobs. Although he took home a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, his success has been limited in recent years. This season Columbus look like a team reborn who are within shouting distance of the playoffs. Currently, they lie 6th overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-4-1. CBJ are on fire in the stats department, ranking 2nd in goals/game and 6th in goals against/game.
2012 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky is again the team’s strong link. Currently ranked 17th overall in the leagues’ goalie stats. The Russian has 10 wins, a GAA of 2.19 and a Save Percentage of .931. Right now this ranks him above goalies such as Holtby, Fleury, and Crawford. One credit you have to give Tortorella is that he is making the most of what he has. Those resources could be important building blocks towards something bigger in the next few years. Before you run away, I understand there is a great deal of apathy towards this team. Columbus might appear as exciting rice pudding in some games, but their fans have deserved something for their patience.
The team might not ever have a Rocket Richard Trophy winner, but it has a good group of solid pros. Captain Nick Foligno and Sam Gagner are top scorers with seven goals each. Alexander Wennberg has an impressive 14 assists and 17 points. Cam Atkinson has looked good with 15 points. Zach Werenski, Brandon Saad and Scott Hartnell are also pitching in well. Losing top scorer Ryan Johansen last season was significant, but Seth Jones was a key piece of the trade to Nashville. On the Blue Line, Jones has given the Blue Jackets a new bloodline. With Ryan Murray continually sidelined, Columbus needed a solid replacement. Jones six points have been useful so far and with a little work he could be an excellent addition.
Defensively this team has been excellent and the Blue Jackets possess the second lowest goals against. Columbus might not be wowing the league with any kind of flair, but that has never been their style. The Blue Jackets are a team that wins games by sheer hard work. Since 2000 the highest this team has placed is 7th overall in the Eastern Conference. So they might not win a Stanley Cup this year, but stranger things have happened. All it will take is the right clutch of results to come their way. People wrote off Columbus back in 2014 and they made the playoffs.
This season the expectations were low but Columbus isn’t going quietly into the good night. You can sense that this side is fighting hard to stay above water. On merit alone, this team deserves your attention. In many ways, this was the perfect side for Tortorella to rebuild because it might have been lacking in material but the foundation is solid. Can they sustain this kind of form? If they keep up the hard work then yes I can totally see Columbus making a postseason trip. Staying injury free will be the key to success. The trade deadline could be key and Tortorella might want to deepen quality on the lines. If we have learned anything in 2016, it’s that sport in Ohio is on the upswing.