Game 82 has finally come and gone for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres put the final nail in the coffin for an awful season throughout the organization.
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Now the attention turns to May 8 and the NHL Draft Lottery. Thanks to Friday night’s result, the Blue Jackets know the situation at hand.
Draft Lottery Fate
The Blue Jackets’ regulation loss to the Sabres secured their 31st place finish in the NHL standings. They will hold the second best odds at landing the first overall pick.
The Blue Jackets hold a 60% chance of picking in the top-three and a 40% chance of dropping to fourth overall. They have about a 28% chance of picking in the top-two. Here is the full breakdown of odds by position.
- 1st: 13.5%
- 2nd: 14.4%
- 3rd: 32%
- 4th: 40.1%
This guarantees the Blue Jackets one of the consensus best four players available in the draft. This includes Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov and Leo Carlsson.
Fans wanted a 32nd place finish in order to assure a top-three pick guaranteed given Bedard, Fantilli and Carlsson all project as number-one centers. But thanks to the Blue Jackets’ OT win on Thursday night, the Anaheim Ducks clinched 32nd place thanks to a 13-game losing streak to end the season.
Now, the fate of the Blue Jackets rests on the ping pong balls. Will they finally land a franchise-changing center? They are a slight 60/40 favorite to do so.
The games are done. Now it’s up to luck to see where everything falls in the lottery.
About the Game
The Sabres/Blue Jackets game was a makeup game from Dec 27 due to the massive snowstorm that hit Buffalo. Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention. The only matter in question where the Blue Jackets would slot in the lottery.
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After scoring the OT winner on Thursday, Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring 34 seconds into the game. Were we heading down the same path as Thursday?
The Sabres opened the second with three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead before Tyler Angle connected on his first NHL goal. From a tight angle (see what I did there?) he was able to get the puck past Devon Levi. That ultimately became the Blue Jackets’ last goal of the season.
The Sabres added a pair in the third to secure the win and to secure the Blue Jackets into 31st place. Jon Gillies started but had to leave the game after two periods due to a lower body injury. Michael Hutchinson played the third period. The Sabres got goals from Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson, Alex Tuch, Casey Mittelstadt and Peyton Krebs.
The Blue Jackets will be holding end of season availabilities for the players on Saturday at Nationwide Arena. But during Friday night’s postgame, head coach Brad Larsen showed some raw emotion about the season coming to an end.
“This is a privilege to do this job and I love it,” Larsen said. “And it’s even in a challenging year like it was…there’s just lots of things to sort through and think through, through a year like this.”
Larsen was asked if he was relieved the season was finally over.
“Relief is not the right word. That’s not the word. There’s a lot to assess and look at and different things that you reflect on over the year. But no, it’s not relief.”
This isn’t a direct indication of his job status. The Blue Jackets will certainly evaluate everything including Larsen. But the raw emotion he showed certainly stood out. It’s been a rough season for everyone involved given the injuries and final place in the standings.
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Sean Kuraly admitted he doesn’t want to be in that position again. Johnny Gaudreau said this has been the hardest season he’s been through given all the injuries and the length of time several players had to miss.
Add that the Cleveland Monsters were eliminated from AHL Playoff contention and you have an organization downtrodden and looking for answers. That process of looking for answers starts Saturday.
If there is good news to look forward to, it’s that this crazy season is finally over. But change in certain areas feels inevitable. When both the NHL and AHL team miss the playoffs, it’s time for hard reflection.
Will the Blue Jackets finally get the ultimate payoff at the NHL Draft Lottery? Only time and fate will make that determination now.