In my season preview, I wrote that the Columbus Blue Jackets would make it to the Eastern Conference Final. Needless to say, that prediction will not come to pass this season. Instead, the Blue Jackets are in line to receive a high pick in this June’s draft. Not many people, myself included, ever thought that this would happen.
And that’s just it. We look at the team as a whole, and predict how far we think they can go. The rationale makes sense. But more often than not, the season turns out different from the way we anticipate. For the Blue Jackets, nobody could have seen this coming.
Of course, the thing that nobody saw coming, was the amount of injuries the Blue Jackets have had to deal with. The total man games lost sits now at over 400 games. At this point in the season, that is over 6 regular starters out of the lineup for every game played.
As of this writing, the Blue Jackets would own the 6th overall pick in this coming June’s draft. That pick could be higher depending on how the season ends. It is conceivable for the Blue Jackets to get into the Top 3. In this draft, to get that kind of player added to this group, is a blessing that nobody expected to get when this season began. Just imagine if the Blue Jackets land Connor McDavid.
Assuming health, the Blue Jackets have the talent to be a playoff team. When players like Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Calvert, and Sergei Bobrovsky are playing, the Blue Jackets have a winning record. In fact, the Blue Jackets are 17-13-2 when both Dubinsky and Calvert both play. In contrast, the team is 10-21-2 when one plays, or they both don’t play. Over the course of a full season, having both in the lineup projects the Blue Jackets to 92 points, on the fringe of the playoffs.
It’s for this reason that the Blue Jackets are a buy low team. Their core players, such as Dubinsky, Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, and others, will be back with the team next season. Sergei Bobrovsky will also be back. Management has come out and said that they will use the offseason to make adjustments to the defense. Now they might also get a high draft pick in this class? The elements are there for this team to be a perennial contender in a couple of years.
I had the chance to travel to both Pittsburgh and New Jersey to watch the Blue Jackets play. I wasn’t concerned with the score this time. I was focused on the future, and what potential this team has moving forward. Even though the outcome in each game was different, a 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh, and a 3-2 win over New Jersey, I left both games with goose bumps.
Blue Jackets Vs. Penguins
In the Pittsburgh game, the Blue Jackets started strong. They opened the scoring on the power play, only to give up a tying goal just over a minute later. The game slipped away from them after that. It was the 3rd period that really stood out though.
The Penguins got a power play with them leading 5-1. Next thing I know, Ryan Johansen is streaking in on a shorthanded breakaway. Now if you know anything about Ryan Johansen, he is filthy when it comes to converting on a breakaway. He made no mistake in taking Marc-Andre Fleury to school.
What a move that was to score. Even better, what a move to get past Derrick Pouliot to get that breakaway. Ryan Johansen is so talented, I’m of the belief that he doesn’t even know how good he is yet. Keep this in mind. He doesn’t turn 23 until the end of July. The sky is the limit for him.
Blue Jackets vs. Devils
The New Jersey game was encouraging on some different levels. The Blue Jackets won 3-2. But it was how they won that stood out. They had a strong 1st period, build from that momentum in the 2nd, and closed the door in the 3rd. This is the way they want to play and win games. They want great goaltending, timely scoring, and hard, physical play. I spoke to Ryan Johansen after this game, and he told me that there are a lot of bright spots for this team, even though the season has been disappointing.
“It’s nice to have Big Bad Bob back in the net, holding down the fort for the boys”, Johansen said. “It’s nice to see players like Wennberg, and Dano, and Dubinsky with his speed step up for us.”
The New Jersey win broke a 7 game losing streak the Blue Jackets were on. As Johansen said, many stepped up that night. Brandon Dubinsky was the best player on the ice for both teams. He scored a goal, and was causing havoc defensively all night. It brought energy to the team. And how bout this sweet goal from Marko Dano, setup by Alexander Wennberg?
Dano from Wennberg is something that could be part of the Blue Jackets for many years to come. What a sweet pass from Wennberg to Dano. Then Dano went under the crossbar with the shot. Nobody was stopping that puck. It also turned out to be the game winning goal.
So when you put it all together, the result is a high upside future. The core will be back. The defense will be retooled. The young guns will have some experience under their belt. They’ll get a potential star in this draft. This is a great time to be a Blue Jackets fan. Although fans want the team to be playing in May and June, they are not far away from making that a regular thing. Buy low on this team now, it will be a great investment for you.