The Columbus Blue Jackets spoke loud and clear on their most recent road trip. They’re in no position to be a big buyer at this trade deadline.
Instead, it seems the harsh reality of them being a seller is starting to set in. A 1-5-0 trip including two absolute clunkers in Detroit will do that.
This trip was going to go a long way in determining which direction GM Jarmo Kekalainen was going to go. But two brutal losses against the Red Wings was step one. Then they blew a third period lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning after going up 2-1. Then they go to Sunrise and get outscored 8-2 in the two-game set against the Florida Panthers.
Offensively, this team hasn’t been able to figure anything out. Not with their lines. Not with their consistency. It just hasn’t worked.
So why is selling becoming a bigger reality for them?
Overcoming Math & Many Teams
Here’s where things get tricky for the Blue Jackets. Even if they get on a run, they have to get help from the teams they’re chasing down. They have to start losing at nearly the same clip the Blue Jackets are winning.
Let’s try to paint the playoff picture. The Blue Jackets enter Tuesday’s game against the Lightning with 36 points. They trail the last playoff spot in the Discover Central Division by just five points. It appears they have a chance still.
But then consider that per moneypuck.com, the Blue Jackets’ chances of making the playoffs are just 2.4% as of Monday. Why is it so low? That’s because of their remaining schedule and who they have to jump in the standings.
With games against the Lightning, Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes remaining, the degree of difficulty is high. But then we have to consider their place in the standings.
The Blue Jackets are seventh in points percentage in the Discover Central Division only five points clear of Detroit. The Nashville Predators hold the final playoff spot for now. The Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars are right behind them. For the Blue Jackets to make the playoffs, they have to jump three teams. The odds of that aren’t very good.
Put another way, if we assume 60 points is the cutoff for the playoffs, the Blue Jackets need 24 points in their final 16 games. In record form, that is 11-3-2 or equivalent. While this is not impossible, it will be very hard to achieve.
If the Blue Jackets are going to have any chance to make one last run at this, they have to take care of business at home. They get two with the Lightning and two with the Blackhawks with the last game being after the trade deadline.
The reality is simple. The Blue Jackets need three wins this week leading into Monday’s deadline. Anything short of that will make their already small chances of the playoffs even smaller.
At this point, it doesn’t have to be pretty. They just need to find a way. However if they are unable to do that, the reality of selling will not only be setting in, it will become their reality.
The Reality of Selling
These Blue Jackets are facing a tough situation if they have to sell. Two of the biggest names in franchise history could be on a new team by the deadline in David Savard and Nick Foligno.
If either were to happen, it would be emotional for everyone involved.
Savard has spent his entire career with the Blue Jackets and has embodied everything the franchise is about. And it goes without saying what Foligno has done.
While many expect Savard to be dealt since he would be the most attractive defensive option available, we’ll see if things happen with Foligno. Does he want to chase a Stanley Cup? Does he want to stay in Columbus without being moved? Can they agree on a new contract? Time will help answer these questions. But several teams would love to add a player like Foligno.
Other players too such as Michael Del Zotto or Riley Nash could be dealt by the deadline. This team could look dramatically different come Monday afternoon.
The Blue Jackets are staring at a harsh reality. Unless they do something this week to change the narrative, selling is their only reasonable option. That means playing out the season with no hope of making the playoffs. That’s tough for everyone involved.
Good Things Happening in Cleveland
I went to Cleveland this past Saturday to watch the Monsters take on the Grand Rapids Griffins. This was the North American debut for goalie Daniil Tarasov, the Blue Jackets goalie of the future. Let’s discuss thim and two other things I saw that bode well for the Blue Jackets moving forward.
- Tarasov is the real deal. I understand this is just one game but consider what he did here. He came from the KHL to North America to start his first AHL game. He gave up two early goals that weren’t his fault. Then he settled in and shut the Griffins out the rest of the game. He was named the game’s first star. That’s as impressive as it gets.
- Tarasov is 6-foot-5 and covers a ton of net. He gave nothing for the Griffins to shoot at. Then when he had to, he used his athleticism to prevent goals. One puck bounced in the air only for him to reach behind, catch it, and keep it out of the net. Then he demonstrated excellent control going side-to-side on cross-ice passes. He has a lot to learn about the North American game, but it is easy to see why there is hype on this player.
- When asked what the biggest difference was between the KHL and AHL, Tarasov through an interpreter said players here will shoot from anywhere. Then about coming back from an early 2-0 hole, he said it wasn’t a big deal for him to settle in after that. He’s confident too. He will be very interesting to watch as we move forward.
- Kole Sherwood scored two goals and was outstanding on Saturday night. He was everywhere on the ice causing havoc. He got in a fight to boot. But what was most noticeable to me was his net-front presence. One of his goals came off a rebound while he was camped in front. He won his battle and was able to score from the dirty area. He played like he did at the end of his OHL career in Kitchener as a true difference maker. This is the way he needs to play. This season is especially important for him in his development. If he can have nights like Saturday, he could eventually make an impact in Columbus.
- And lastly for now, Andrew Peeke is playing a big role in the Monsters’ top-four. He played on both special teams units as well. He’s getting a golden opportunity to play in situations he will be depended to play in once he stays with the Blue Jackets permanently. Players don’t like being demoted but I think this is a good thing for Peeke at the moment. The experience he is getting is invaluable especially given the current situation in the NHL. Let him develop and thrive playing a big role now so when the time comes, he can step right in and play without missing a beat. If Savard gets dealt, that might be his opportunity. But on Saturday, he looked good playing important minutes in all situations. This bodes well for his future.
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 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.