The Columbus Blue Jackets are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history. At just 3-7-0 in their first 10 games, they already find themselves in last place in the Eastern Conference and tied for last place in the NHL with just six points.
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The Blue Jackets are hoping a trip to Finland will help them start heading in the right direction. If they are to find success in the Global Series, they will have to find a way to sweep a pair of games from the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
That will not be an easy task. If the Blue Jackets are to take four points combined on Friday and Saturday, their leaders are going to have to be the reason.
Leaders Need to Lead
One look at the early stats tell the story. The Blue Jackets are not getting enough from everyone. This is especially true of their leaders. Johnny Gaudreau is off to a good start leading the team with five goals and eight points. This is despite having to play with ever-changing linemates.
Here are the stat lines of the leaders of the Blue Jackets.
- Jake Voracek: 0-5-5, has six goals in 89 games since returning to the Blue Jackets.
- Gus Nyquist: 2-2-4, is on a 33-point pace after scoring 53 points last season.
- Boone Jenner: 1-3-4, is on pace for eight goals after scoring 23 goals last season.
- Sean Kuraly: 1-2-3, coming off a season of 14 goals and 30 points.
Add to that Patrik Laine just having one goal in his four games and you have a situation where the leaders have not been able to enjoy success. The only other player to reach three goals for the Blue Jackets this season besides Gaudreau is rookie Kent Johnson.
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This is not nearly good enough for a team who has shown they are better than what we’ve seen. The lines haven’t been able to stay consistent. There has been inconsistency in play up and down the lineup especially in their last outing against the Devils. The defense hasn’t been able to stop their opposition. When they do get the puck, the simplest of plays cannot be made.
This screams for leadership to step up and put a stop to this slide. They have to take the lead and start playing the way they can. This means creating the energy for everyone else and to get them involved and active in the game. Far too often this season the Blue Jackets have looked lost and disinterested. Being in Tampere and in a full Nokia Arena should ensure they have energy when the puck is dropped.
Time for Fun & Games is Over
When the Blue Jackets first arrived in Finland, they were coming off a bad week where they were outscored by their opponents 17-4. This included a bad loss to the then last place Arizona Coyotes.
They needed to get away and disconnect. Coming to Helsinki provided them an opportunity to reset themselves mentally. There was much-needed time for team bonding. There was a chance to explore the beauty of Finland and enjoy the great eats they have. They even got to enjoy sauna Finland style.
The Blue Jackets also got to meet fans while showing their appreciation for them. For Laine and Joonas Korpisalo in particular, they got to visit a Children’s Hospital in Helsinki. They’re both heroes in Finland and are certainly taking a lot of pride being home.
But the time for fun and games is over now. It’s gameday. While the week in Finland has provided lifelong memories, there is important business at hand. Two losses this weekend would drop the Blue Jackets to 3-9-0 which is a lot of ground to make up even with much of the season left.
While these two games are not must-win games in that sense, they’re important just for the psyche of the team. If the Blue Jackets get blown out of the water again, serious questions need to be asked. Even in a development year, there has to be tangible progress. Staying competitive with the Avalanche would be a good start towards showing that progress.
The Avalanche come into the Global Series not at full strength. Gabriel Landeskog remains out. They do still however have Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen and company to deal with. When they’re on, they can score goals with anyone.
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The matchup in net will be worth watching. The Blue Jackets will start Elvis Merzlikins in Friday’s game. They are expected to start Korpisalo Saturday in his home country for his season debut. The Avalanche are expected to counter with Alexandar Georgiev and Pavel Francouz. The Blue Jackets won both meetings against the Avalanche last season.
If the Blue Jackets hope to find much needed success this weekend, their leaders must give more than what they’ve shown so far. It will take a total team effort to defeat the Avalanche even just once.
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. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.