Blue Jackets Need Monsters to Make AHL Playoffs This Season

The Cleveland Monsters are starting to play better in recent games. They hope it will become a catalyst to an AHL playoff spot in the expanded format.

The Monsters defeated the Belleville Senators twice in the last 48 hours. David Jiricek recorded three assists in Friday night’s 6-2 win. Then in Saturday’s 3-2 win, Justin Richards recorded three primary assists to pace the offense. They then smothered the Senators on defense the rest of the way.

With the two wins, the Monsters have a record of 19-20-3-2. That’s good for sixth place in the North Division. However to qualify for the AHL playoffs, a team in the North Division must finish in the top-five. They currently trail Rochester by four points for that final spot. They also trail Laval by five but have three games in hand on them.

Latest News & Highlights

Despite having their roster gutted because of the Blue Jackets’ injury situation, The Monsters are in the playoff chase. If the teams want to make the most out of this crazy season, it is imperative the Monsters make these playoffs. It’s also imperative that the Blue Jackets help them in any way they can.

Monsters Overcame A lot

The season for the Monsters started off great. With Kirill Marchenko on the roster, they were able to collect wins to stay in the race. Then one at a time, players got called up to the Blue Jackets that left the Monsters scrambling for replacements.

At one point, the Blue Jackets iced a roster that included 11 rookies. While the Monsters need to be ready for these situations, it makes finding replacements very difficult. There are only so many call-ups from Kalamazoo that can come in and help.

That left the Monsters no choice but to sign players to PTO contracts. This sunk them to the bottom of the North Division standings. It does look like the teams are now starting to turn a corner though.

Slowly, the Monsters are getting players back. Marcus Bjork is back on the blue line. Tim Berni played a couple of games before the Blue Jackets called him back. AHL All-Star Jake Christiansen is playing an important role on the blue line. He scored a power-play goal on Saturday to help the team win.

Jake Christiansen Cleveland Monsters
Jake Christiansen will be an important player in the Monsters’ playoff chase. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

An underrated signing for the Monsters has been that of Brandon Davidson. The veteran wears an ‘A’ on his sweater and is an instrumental leader to this young team. More important, he is Jiricek’s partner on the top pair.

Suddenly, the defense looks more formidable. If the Blue Jackets continue to get healthy, Berni could be back. Gavin Bayreuther could return though he would need waivers. Up front, Carson Meyer has started skating again. He could eventually rejoin the Monsters too.

Monsters Know Importance of Playoffs

The Monsters know how important the rest of this season is. They have to make something out of it. Having both the NHL and AHL team miss their respective playoffs would be a damaging blow especially from a missed development perspective.

If there is one thing the Blue Jackets must get right this season, it’s development. Beyond that, they must make the right decisions on where to send certain players. Although they have had discussions all season in this regard, nothing major has happened yet.

Monsters’ coach Trent Vogelhuber talked on Saturday about the importance of getting guys back healthy for their stretch run.

“It’s huge,” Vogelhuber said. “When you can get healthy, it kind of puts everybody in their place, in the place they feel most comfortable with at this stage in their careers. My top-two centers are now playing 17-18 minutes instead of 22-23 minutes. Now the quality of minutes goes up for everybody because you have more defense. We’ve got 12 forwards so we can roll 12-6 which we haven’t been able to do for 2/3 of the season.”

“Adding Bjork and Berni for a couple of games, you can see our arrivals getting the pucks. We’re able to get it in and out a little quicker. Then you’re defending less now. You can spend energy on the offense side of things. It’s all connected. But it starts with the guys being healthy and available.”

Christiansen knows the importance of making these playoffs for himself and the team. He spoke about that on Saturday how this is going to be a total team effort.

“Playoff hockey is when players take steps,” Christiansen said. “Going through the nitty gritty of the season and getting experience for the younger guys is definitely what’s going to help our team propel and help players propel their careers. It’s definitely huge for us.”

Blue Jackets Must Help the Monsters

The Blue Jackets know how important it is to take advantage of every good situation that arises. A chance for many of their players to experience playoffs would be massive for them.

The Blue Jackets will need to provide help to maximize the Monsters’ chances of advancing to postseason. This means making sure the players are back to 100% and no sooner. This means potentially sending some guys down to play those big games. Remember that teams have until the trade deadline to ensure a player is on the AHL roster to be eligible for postseason. Watch for a lot of paper transactions then.

Cole Sillinger Columbus Blue Jackets
Cole Sillinger and others could get a chance to play in the AHL playoffs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Regardless of how they do it, the Blue Jackets must come up with the right plan to help the Monsters this season. With just 30 games left for the Blue Jackets, they have an opportunity to see which players could benefit from playing for the Monsters the rest of this season. Maybe even a player like Nick Blankenburg who doesn’t need waivers? Or Cole Sillinger?

Remember Last Time

The Monsters won a Calder Cup Championship back in 2016. Zach Werenski, Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand were all on that team. What happened after that? The Blue Jackets started making trips to the postseason on a regular basis.

The importance of this doesn’t get the headlines it deserves. Players need to maximize their development opportunities whenever possible. The Blue Jackets already know they’re not making the NHL playoffs. Therefore they need to focus on the AHL playoffs and give their players a chance to thrive.

You Might Also Like

In an otherwise ugly season for the Blue Jackets’ organization, they have a chance to shine some light on it. The time is now to help the Monsters do whatever is necessary to not only make the AHL playoffs but to win in them.

This would benefit the Blue Jackets for years to come.

Sign up for our regular 'Blue Jackets Newsletter' for all the latest.