This season, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the eighth youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 26.34. They were also 27th in the league in games played, with only 7,637 combined games. Many have attributed the team’s struggles in 2020-21 to inexperience, but other teams with a similar lack of experience had a more successful season than Columbus.
Here’s a look at how the Blue Jackets compare to those other teams and why their lack of experience was not a factor in a disappointing season.
Blue Jackets vs. Other Inexperienced Teams
For comparison’s sake, I’ve referenced teams with an average age between 26.1 and 26.9 years: the Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers.
Per Elite Prospects, below is a chart that features all those teams’ average age, combined games played, the number of players over 30, and the result of their 2020-21 season (some seasons are still ongoing).
|Team||Average Age (In Years)||Combined Games Played||Number of Players Over 30||2020-21 Season Result|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||26.38||7,673||8||Finished 8th in the Central Division; missed postseason|
|Winnipeg Jets||26.76||10,791||6||Finished third in the North Division; currently in second round of the playoffs after defeating the Edmonton Oilers|
|Philadelphia Flyers||26.68||8,337||7||Finished sixth in the East Division; missed postseason|
|Vancouver Canucks||26.43||10,443||7||Finished seventh (last in the North Division); missed postseason|
|Carolina Hurricanes||26.39||8,780||4||Finished first in the Central Division; currently in the second round of the playoffs after defeating the Nashville Predators|
|Florida Panthers||26.24||9,323||6||Finished in second place in the Central Division; defeated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the playoffs|
According to the above, most teams with a similar level of experience had better seasons than the Blue Jackets; the Canucks are the only other team to finish last in their division.
Of the six teams, three made the playoffs, and two are still competing for the Stanley Cup. The Jets are battling the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, and the Hurricanes are up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning eliminated the Florida Panthers in the first round.
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The two other teams that missed the playoffs, the Flyers and Canucks had better records than the Blue Jackets: Columbus finished with a record of 18-26-12 (48 points), the Flyers finished 25-23-8 (58 points), and the Canucks finished 23-29-4 (50 points).
The Blue Jackets may have had the youngest average age amongst these teams and the fewest combined games, but their veterans also balanced it out. Of all the teams, Columbus had the most players over 30, with eight in the 2020-21 campaign, the oldest being Nathan Gerbe at 33.
Oddly, the team closest to Columbus in experience, the Hurricanes, who have a very similar average age at .01 years older, didn’t have these struggles. Carolina finished first in the Central Division, and they are now in the second round of the 2021 Playoffs. It is also worth mentioning that the Hurricanes’ 8,780 combined games played could be the magic number. Every team below that mark missed the playoffs this season.
The Blue Jackets may have been among the youngest teams, but not so young that it would have increased their struggles compared to the other teams.
What’s to Blame for Their Struggles?
Yes, the Blue Jackets were inexperienced, but they had more veterans than the other teams mentioned above. Also, Columbus had a worse record than the teams below them in average age, and combined games played, besides the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. This shows other issues were contributing to the team’s struggles.
Columbus’ 2020-21 season was not held back by their young lineup but rather the offseason and deadline trades, a lack of chemistry, consistent defensive struggles, injuries, and a lack of skill. Other teams have shown that a lack of experience is not always an issue. If Columbus can fix the problems mentioned above, they should be better next season despite their age.
Cody Chalfan is currently a journalism major at the Ohio State University who grew up in Columbus and loves hockey, especially the Blue Jackets. He is disabled, therefore he is a major advocate for the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone movement. A piece he wrote focusing on the Blue Jackets’ work on expanding the sport into the local special needs community can be found here. Cody can be contacted via Twitter (@cachalfan) direct message for comments, constructive criticism, or story ideas.