The Columbus Blue Jackets were embarrassed, again.
This time it was a thoroughly dominant performance by the Calgary Flames in all phases. They unleashed a franchise record 62 shots on goal in their 6-0 win over the Blue Jackets Thursday night. With a game the next night against the New York Rangers staring them in the face, it was gut check time for the Blue Jackets.
Enter captain Boone Jenner. He personally took it upon himself to make sure the Blue Jackets washed away Thursday’s dreadful performance. His efforts gave his team a much needed win, 5-3 over the Rangers.
Jenner now leads the Blue Jackets in both goals (18) and points (30). He is on pace for 36 goals and 60 points this season. Should he achieve these marks, both would shatter his previous career bests. He recorded 30 goals and 49 points in 2015-16.
We’re only halfway through the 2021-22 season, but Jenner’s performance is worth talking about. He is by far the Blue Jackets’ MVP to this point. He’s playing the best overall hockey of his career, all while going through the process of being a first-time NHL captain. That’s no small feat.
We need to review how we got to this point to see what all Jenner has had to overcome to be in a position lead the Blue Jackets like this. There were legitimate concerns about his durability and the kind of player he would be after seeing his numbers steadily decline over the last few seasons.
This is a story of sticking with the process while making necessary adjustments in order to be in a position to become an NHL captain.
Jenner shocked many around the Blue Jackets and the hockey world when he put up a 30-goal season. He scored nine power-play goals, one short-handed goal and was 53% at the dot in his limited time at center. From that point forward however, Jenner was never able to replicate those kind of numbers.
His goal totals since then have gone 18, 13, 16, 11 and 8. Those eight goals last season were in 41 games. His usage was all over the map depending on the game. He was playing in the top-six, bottom-six, on the wing and then in a pinch he’d play center. There really wasn’t a defined role for him. But he could play anywhere and the team took advantage of that.
Prior to his breakout in 2015-16, Jenner had to overcome significant injuries. Most notably, he had a stress fracture in his back. He ultimately returned in March and finished out the season. But there was significant questions about his future given the type of injury he had.
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Jenner responded with his 30-goal season while not missing a game in 2015-16. But then another injury got to him. This time, he suffered an injury during summer training that forced him to miss training camp and the preseason. He came back and played in all 82 games but his production dipped. It was still a respectable season with 18 goals and 34 points.
Jenner settled into a role where he provided much-needed energy to the team while chipping in some offense. You could count on him for around 35 points per season. But then he was limited to 24 points in 2019-20 and 17 points in 2020-21 where he was on a 34-point pace over 82 games.
The Need to Lead
Jenner was named the seventh captain of the Blue Jackets this season. It was an obvious move at the time given his leadership and the way he plays the game. But deep down, Jenner knew he had to get his game to a different level. He needed to be more productive.
If there is one area of Jenner’s game that has been questioned, it’s been his skating. Early in his career, he was not the greatest of skaters. To his credit, he adjusted and was able to enjoy success. This was an area though that had to get better. Thanks to his commitment in the offseason to become more agile, his skating started to improve.
Now? Jenner even has some folks wondering where it all came from.
Jenner’s skating has never been in a better place. He’s noticeably faster. It’s allowing him to become a better overall player. He’s making a bigger impact in all areas of the game as a result.
Jenner knew he had to change in this regard. He embraced the challenge and it’s paid off in a big way. How much has it paid off? Glad you asked.
The Blue Jackets have an obvious need at center. Because of the lack of high-end centers on the team, an opportunity presented itself for someone to step up and take on the role of number-one center. To no one’s surprise, Jenner accepted the challenge and has been the team’s MVP so far.
Friday’s game against the Rangers showed us why. Jenner scored two goals, added an assist and was noticeable every time he stepped on the ice. His goal to tie the game at two was vintage Jenner. He parked in front of the net and redirected Zach Werenski’s shot. He’s known for camping out near the crease and scoring in tight. But it’s his skill that doesn’t get enough credit.
Several of Jenner’s goals this season have been from the net front. You have to have hands in order to score consistently like that. He’s able to deflect pucks. He can make a move to get his shot off. It’s one thing to have a willingness to go in front of the net. It’s another to have the skill to be effective there. His success has allowed the Blue Jackets to be an effective offensive team, averaging three goals per game.
Larsen & Laine on Jenner
Brad Larsen knows how important Jenner is to the success of their team. He spoke to that postgame Friday after his two-goal performance.
“We all know what Boone is and naming him captain this year (shows) what we think of him,” Larsen said. “Today was a real important game for our team for a lot of guys. You want the proper guys to step up. Tonight, (Jenner) was right at the front of it. He had a couple of goals, an assist. He had six hits, seven shot attempts, taking big draws there down the stretch.”
“Boone stepped up, a lot of other guys too. It wasn’t just him tonight. But when you’re the captain, you gotta lead and I felt like he led it properly. A lot of guys followed suit.”
Patrik Laine has played with Jenner on the wing in recent games and is seeing first hand the impact Jenner is having.
“It’s always fun to see your teammates have big nights. Obviously being a part of that for three goals, he played a really good game,” Laine said. “It’s nice to see him getting rewarded. He works hard every night. That’s how you’re going to get success. He’s a prime example of that. He brings it every single time he goes out there and gets rewarded. I’m just happy for him that he had a big night.”
Jenner Playing Best Hockey of His Career
Jenner’s overall play goes beyond the stat sheet. While he’s putting up the numbers, he does everything asked of him including playing in every important situation. If the game is close late, you can count on Jenner being out there.
So while his numbers are on a career-best pace, the reason he’s playing the best overall hockey of his career is the total impact he’s having on the game. He knew he needed to get to another level as the unquestioned leader of the Blue Jackets. He’s done that and more.
Jenner has been the team’s midseason MVP and it’s not even close. He leads in goals and points and plays every meaningful situation.
Jenner has put in the work, made the necessary adjustments and is now one of the Blue Jackets’ best players. It should no longer surprise anyone what he does. This is who he is.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.