Blue Jackets Hope for Improvement Lies in Draft Lottery

Saying that the Columbus Blue Jackets have had a rough start to the season is certainly an understatement. They currently sit dead last in the NHL with six points through 12 games played.

Blue Jackets’ Season So Far

The Blue Jackets have allowed the second most goals in the league with 55, better than only the Anaheim Ducks who have allowed 61. They’re also third worst in goals for behind the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. Their power play struggles have been well documented and they’re still last in that regard as well. The one bright spot is the penalty kill, where they’re perfectly average sitting 15th in the league with a 79 percent success rate shorthanded.

There are a lot of negatives that we’ve addressed already however one of the most noticeable has yet to be mentioned. The goaltending has been atrocious, to say the least. All three goaltenders who have played a game this season have a save percentage (SV%) below .900 and a goals-against average (GAA) above 3.50. Surprisingly the most effective goalie to date has been Daniil Tarasov with his .893 SV% and 3.57 GAA. Meanwhile the starter, Elvis Merzlikins has a SV% of .863 and is having the worst stretch of his NHL career by far. Joonas Korpisalo’s stats aren’t good either, however, since he’s only played a single game it’s a bit early to tell how well he’s actually doing. His first game during the Finland series was certainly far from ideal though.

Elvis Merzlikins Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In general, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jackets have fallen off compared to last season. Considering the addition of Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson, this is something that would’ve seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. It’s gotten to the point where this season seems unsalvageable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Outside of Gaudreau and Patrik Laine, the team often has their players a couple of lines above where they should be on a contending team. When you have a lot of third-line caliber players and young players who aren’t quite ready for a lot of ice time, you work with the hand you’re dealt. In this instance, the hand they’ve been dealt simply isn’t good enough.

The Draft Lottery

Often one of the most exciting times of the year for non-playoff teams, the draft lottery can change the direction of an organization. Some years, you get an opportunity to add a player who will help the organization, but not change things dramatically. Other times, like this year, you can find a generational talent who will make waves around the NHL for decades.

Related: Blue Jackets’ Prospect Dumais is Lighting Up the QMJHL

If the Blue Jackets are lucky enough to get a top-two pick, they’ll be able to fill their top-line center role for the foreseeable future. Connor Bedard, or even Adam Fantilli, would be a game changer for the organization. A player like Matvei Michkov would also be a great addition, however, with his commitment to the Kontinental Hockey League for the time being, he won’t bring an instant boost to the team. He’s also a winger which is less of a need for the Blue Jackets than a center. Either way, it’s imperative that they’re able to get one of these three top players, as the gap between the top three and those below seems significant.

The Blue Jackets’ season has reached a point of no return and it seems that they have to turn their attention to the future for any type of success. It’s not often a team gets worse when adding an elite-level player, however, that is what seems to have happened. Now the focus needs to be on the NHL Draft Lottery moving forward, as that’s the next opportunity for the organization to bring hope to the city of Columbus.

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