The Columbus Blue Jackets are finally enjoying life a little bit. Despite numerous injuries, they have put their best stretch of hockey together going 3-0-1 in their last four games. They also have plenty of home games upcoming to try and extend that.
With that, welcome back to Blue Jackets News & Rumors. We have a lot to get to. We will try to answer two big questions surrounding the team and what those could mean now and in the future. Those two questions are:
- What is the impact of Jack Roslovic’s healthy scratch?
- What, if anything, do we make of these rumors with the Vancouver Canucks?
Roslovic’s Healthy Scratch is Eye Opening
The current list of injuries remains longer than a CVS receipt at Nationwide Arena. With several regulars out of the lineup, now more than ever the Blue Jackets need their best players and leaders who are healthy to step up and carry the team.
It’s reasonable to expect that all healthy bodies would play in that case. Except that was not the case for one player who is expected to be an important contributor. Once again, Roslovic found himself on the outside looking in.
In Tuesday’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Roslovic was a healthy scratch. This is despite seven players on injured reserve. It’s one thing to do this with everyone healthy and available. It’s quite another to do it when the team is scrambling looking for healthy bodies.
It’s actually very simple. This shows that coach Brad Larsen is willing to do these things no matter the circumstances surrounding the team.
“I need more,” Larsen said of Roslovic. While not getting into too much of what was said due to the private nature of the conversation, Larsen made it clear that the standard for Roslovic was put in a higher place thanks to the way he finished last season.
Before the scratch, Roslovic was struggling on the ice. He has just one goal in 15 games and is averaging less than two shots on goal per game. The Blue Jackets xGF% with him on the ice at 5-on-5 is just 38.56% per Natural Stat Trick. In other words, the struggle is real.
These numbers are certainly eye opening. While there’s no question there’s a better version of Roslovic to be seen, the questions now have to be asked. What does his role look like in the future? And is his future with the Blue Jackets?
The issue is consistency. While Roslovic has had stretches of play where he’s one of the most dominant players on the ice, he’s also had as many times where you have a hard time finding him. On his current contract, $4 million cap hit this season and next season, it shows he’s playing for his future with the Blue Jackets.
At least so far, he’s not making a convincing argument that he should be part of their future. Even getting back into the lineup Thursday against Montreal, his line was benched for the last half of the third period.
The good news for Roslovic is that there’s plenty of season left. The Blue Jackets know what kind of player he can be when he’s consistent. Larsen is trying to send a message that what he’s shown so far is simply unacceptable. Will this spark him into more consistent play? Or are we seeing what he’ll be?
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Overall, Roslovic’s highs are really high but his lows are really low. With Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson and others eventually ready to take the reigns in the future, Roslovic needs to find himself at center and prove he’s part of the Blue Jackets’ future.
Certainly it is not time to give up on him. He’s too good of a player when right to do that. But when making decisions about the direction of the team, these bouts of inconsistency will be taken into account.
There is no better time than now to show how much of a difference maker Roslovic can be. With the injuries piled up, he has a chance to show he can be part of the solution for the Blue Jackets. So far, though no matter which lens you view this through, he hasn’t been nearly good enough.
Roslovic does have time. But that time will start to run short if this kind of play continues. His future on the Blue Jackets rides with each performance.
The Canucks, Eh?
Ah, yes. Start up that rumor mill. The Vancouver Canucks have struggled out the gate this season. They did earn a 4-1 win Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings. However that will not slow down the rumors coming out of there.
On two occasions, the Blue Jackets were brought up when talking about the Canucks. The first was on the Halford & Brough show on Sportsnet 650. Guest insider Frank Seravalli brought up the Blue Jackets when discussing Canucks’ captain Bo Horvat. It’s important to note that Seravalli said he hasn’t been able to officially confirm anything. However he did say that there seems to have been some conversations between the two teams. “I’m not reporting it but there has been smoke there.”
Then on the 32 Thoughts Podcast Friday, the Canucks were brought up. Elliotte Friedman said the Blue Jackets looking for a center makes sense.
Let’s dive into this. The Blue Jackets have an obvious need for a top-six center. As constructed, their center depth is among the worst in hockey. While they have some exciting young players that could eventually fill those spots, that doesn’t help them this season. If an opportunity to land a center comes up and it makes sense, they’ll investigate.
Add to this that the Blue Jackets have Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine when he returns from injury. It makes sense for the Blue Jackets to prioritize finding a center to play with those two. While Boone Jenner has done a nice job all things considered, he is better suited for a role outside of 1C.
The need is there. But finding the right player in the right circumstance is a whole different matter. This is why the Horvat talk doesn’t seem to make much sense from a Blue Jackets’ perspective.
Horvat is a pending UFA after this season. Without assurance of signing long-term, the Blue Jackets are not in a position to acquire that kind of a rental knowing there is a chance he could leave after the season. If he was willing to sign long term, then it makes some sense.
Then there’s the issue of acquisition price. The Canucks would ask about Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, David Jiricek. The Blue Jackets are not looking to trade these future cornerstone pieces. That conversation would end before it started.
Would Horvat look good in a Blue Jackets’ uniform? Sure. Put him between Gaudreau and Laine and you have a much stronger first line. But the other dynamics in play make this situation tough to see coming to fruition.
If there was any sort of takeaway here, it’s that the Blue Jackets would be wise to look for centers. They have a duty to find out about certain players if there’s potential availability. But the Horvat situation doesn’t fit for multiple reasons.
Expect to see the Blue Jackets linked to centers. But don’t expect anything huge to happen unless the conditions are absolutely perfect. Don’t hold your breath if you think Horvat is coming to Columbus anytime soon.
- Jordan Dumais continues his hot start in the QMJHL for Halifax. He scored six points Friday night (a hat trick and three assists.) This gives him 48 points in 20 games. How is he not in the World Junior conversation for Team Canada? He leads Connor Bedard by two for the CHL scoring lead. He has three hat tricks this season. The time has come for him to get the proper respect for what he’s doing out there.
- The Monsters continue to show how fun they are. In their 7-3 win over Laval Friday night, David Jiricek scored his first two AHL goals. Trey Fix-Wolansky scored five points including two goals. Samuel Knazko had five assists while Carson Meyer added a goal and three assists. The Monsters’ performances of late show just how bright this future still is despite the Blue Jackets’ overall start.
- As of Saturday morning, there is still no indication from the Blue Jackets on an exact timeline for Jake Bean’s injury. Larsen said that his injury was “not good.” Bean is out indefinitely. Give credit to Marcus Bjork, Jake Christansen and Gavin Bayreuther for stepping in and playing well enough for the team to enjoy their recent success. Get used to them being big contributors in the short term.
- Why the better play of late for the Blue Jackets? Besides a long home stand, their schedule has been easier. They have two wins against Philadelphia and a win against Montreal, teams that they should beat. Their early schedule was brutal and the results played out that way. With Detroit and a rematch with Montreal ahead, they have a chance to continue their winning ways with winnable games. The schedule gets tougher so we’ll see how they hold up against Stanley Cup caliber teams in Florida and Vegas.
- A couple of milestones are coming up. Larsen will coach his 100th game with the Blue Jackets Sunday night against the Panthers. Also Erik Gudbranson is one point away from 100 for his NHL career.