There is a buzz around the hockey world right now due to the huge amount of young talent littering the NHL. There are a lot of reasons to be excited in many cities, but are all teams getting their due respect?
There was a Tweet that circulated last night about the NHL teams that people were the most excited about. The list was modified quite a few times, but most of the teams were consistent. Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins…but no Columbus Blue Jackets. In addition to this list, there was a chart of projected statistics for each NHL team in the upcoming season. Nearly every category had the Blue Jackets ranked extremely low. Why?
I would consider the top-nine forwards in Columbus to be among the best in the league, maybe even the top two or three. Add an award-winning goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, and the potential breakout of young defenseman Ryan Murray, and you have a serious recipe for success.
No, Columbus did not draft Connor McDavid, or Jack Eichel. They did not trade for Phil Kessel or T.J. Oshie, but what they did pick up, in addition to what they already had, is very impressive.
A Young Core Group
Brandon Saad is 22, scored 23 goals last year, and hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup after adding 8 playoff goals.
Ryan Johansen is 23, and finished 16th in the league last season in points with 71.
Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray are 22 and 21, respectively, and if they stay healthy, they will be a huge part of this young core.
The Blue Jackets have four players that scored more than 20 goals last year in Saad (23), Johansen (26), Cam Atkinson (22), and Scott Hartnell (28), along with Nick Foligno who scored 31. There is the potential for a ton of offense from a very young group.
This roster is not perfect, and it has well documented defensive issues, but with some players stepping up and a few personnel moves, that could change quickly.
The key to any success in Columbus is staying healthy. The Blue Jackets led the league in man-games lost with an incredible 502. Nobody knows how good they could have been last year with so many injuries to key contributors. Brandon Dubinsky only played 47 games, and Ryan Murray only 12. The list could go on for quite a while.
Have They Earned it?
Some ask if the Blue Jackets have earned respect. The question at the moment isn’t completely about respect, but about the excitement level surrounding the team. If we are talking only about earning respect then we certainly wouldn’t be talking about Edmonton or Buffalo. Now that being said, Columbus has done things to earn respect. In 2013-14 the Blue Jackets had an inspiring playoff series against Pittsburgh and they certainly have been aggressive enough in the front office to earn respect. Should we just hand them the Stanley Cup? No, but they don’t need to be written out of the conversation either.
The Blue Jackets are unquestionably a franchise on the rise. The city of Columbus is excited, why isn’t the rest of hockey?
Until next time.