Erik Gudbranson’s Comments Signify Major Issues for Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a very bad season, to say the least. That hasn’t been a secret and while it’s to be expected during a rebuild, things are reaching a concerning level. The 9-4 loss at home against the Buffalo Sabres on a national broadcast is the most embarrassing moment of the season. After the game, one player had a statement that stood above the rest in importance. Now that it has been a few days, let’s evaluate it.

Gudbranson’s Comments

In the post-game media scrum, defenseman Erik Gudbranson had a jarring comment. Our Mark Scheig reported that he stated, “We haven’t really been practicing the greatest lately and we gotta be a lot better in a lot of areas.” While the first instinct when hearing a comment like that is to blame the coaching staff, it’s clear that this is an organizational issue rather than an individual one. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no blame on the coaches. But it goes beyond that. This is also a player issue and, at the root of it, a management issue, because it should’ve never been allowed to reach this point. Losses in a rebuild are fine, even blowout losses are expected. Lack of accountability and allowing complacency, on the other hand, is unacceptable.

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If the players aren’t getting the work done properly in practice, that’s directly on the coaching staff. It’s specifically the head coach’s job to ensure that the process is being followed and the players are being held accountable if they’re not getting the job done. It’s seeming as if Brad Larsen has simply lost the room, which wouldn’t be a surprise with the way the team has looked lately. If that is the case, then the issue should’ve been resolved almost immediately, which is where the blame on management comes in. If the head coach is allowing bad habits to form and complacency in practice, that’s going to not only hinder young players’ development but potentially ruin their careers. Jarmo Kekalainen and company need to ensure their assets are being utilized properly, which it seems they haven’t been.

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The biggest portion of the blame is simple though. If the players aren’t practicing well, then that’s on them more than anyone else. Despite being a young team, these are still adults who are being paid to do a job. Like anyone else, they need to show up ready to work. It really is that simple. The players need to hold themselves accountable and if they won’t then the coaching staff needs to do so and that continues up the ladder. Gudbranson’s comment is short, but there’s a lot of meaning to a veteran who has been in a lot of NHL locker rooms saying it.

Other Noticeable Issues

Although Gudbranson’s comments have been one of the most shocking issues surrounding the Blue Jackets this season, there have been others. Cole Sillinger has been very lackluster to start the season, to the point where there has been discussion about whether or not he should be sent to the World Junior Championships this year. The defense as a whole has been terrible, and the goaltending has been even worse. Considering this organization added a Hart Trophy candidate to their ranks, you’d assume the team would at least improve slightly but instead things have gone downhill fast.

Erik Gudbranson Calgary Flames
Erik Gudbranson during the 2021-22 season as a member of the Calgary Flames (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

These issues need to be resolved quickly, if not then you risk the young roster moving forward with the expectation that these situations are acceptable. Losing is fine, but the team needs to be at least competitive. If you’re going to lose, at least make an impact in one form or another. Losing and looking like a deer in the headlights for the majority of the night is certainly inexcusable. The Blue Jackets as a whole need to be better, all the way up the ladder.