Blue Jackets’ Recent Efforts Simply Not Good Enough

There’s no need to sugar coat the recent efforts of the Columbus Blue Jackets. It simply hasn’t been good enough. They know it.

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Wednesday night was the latest example of this, a 6-0 shutout loss to the red-hot Calgary Flames. There’s no question the Flames are a very good team. But to allow 62 shots on goal in regulation and play most of the game lifeless is just not acceptable, no matter how you slice it.

Frustration Building

The Blue Jackets have now lost three in a row heading into Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers. Frustration is building everywhere on the team. Zach Werenski spoke on this after the 6-0 loss.

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“It’s just frustrating. It starts with me I think,” Werenski said. “I think I can be a better player for this team especially on nights like this (and) the Florida game. I think it’s one of those things, it’s almost easy to play well when the team is playing well. I think there’s certain times in a season where our team is not playing great. In a game like that, I have to look at that and be a guy that can spark the team a little bit.

“For me personally, I’m just frustrated with how I played. Obviously it wasn’t good. In terms of embarrassing as a team, it ranks right up there with that Florida one.”

Head coach Brad Larsen agreed with Werenski’s assessment on embarrassing performances: “It’s right there. No question. It just wasn’t a good game. Let’s just call it what it is.”

Team Was Lifeless

Even early on, the Flames looked like the better team and only got stronger as the game went on. Even still, it was just 1-0 Flames thanks to Elvis Merzlikins playing very well. Although the score was close, Werenski didn’t feel like the team was ever in it.

“I don’t feel like we had much going tonight even when it was 1-0. I think that definitely hurts. But I think from the beginning of the game, we really didn’t create much, didn’t have much jump. That’s why I’m so frustrated in myself. Those are moments where I can jump up in the play or make a big play or be better defensively. I got beat a couple times tonight that ended up in goals that hurts our team.”

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The concerning part for the Blue Jackets is how often these games are happening in short order. Allowing seven unanswered goals to the Carolina Hurricanes is one thing. Losing 9-2 to the Florida Panthers is another. But allowing 62 shots on goal and having no pushback is something that should be sounding the alarms for everyone on the Blue Jackets.

Can’t Use the Rebuilding Excuse

This season was expected to be a long one for the Blue Jackets. They have a lot of younger players on the team. It’s clear they’re building for the future. But none of these excuses are valid when trying to explain a game where they get outshot 62-23 for the game on home ice.

The shots on goal were 16-9 Flames in the first. And then it went 23-8 in the second and 23-6 in the third. As Larsen said postgame, “You don’t have to dissect this. They were the better team. It wasn’t even close. They had the puck all night. That’s the only observation you need to see.”

Brad Larsen Columbus Blue Jackets
Brad Larsen knows that he and everyone on the Blue Jackets needs to be better. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The question that needs to be asked is why. Why does this keep happening to the Blue Jackets? It’s a tough question to answer because there are nights where they can compete with any team in the league and enjoy success. They defeated the Hurricanes 6-0 on their home ice and have defeated the Colorado Avalanche twice this season.

This comes down to effort and energy for each individual player. It also comes down to the coaching staff making sure everyone is ready to go. It’s clear that has not been the case of late. There’s a standard within the Blue Jackets’ locker room and for now, they are all falling short of that standard.

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The Blue Jackets do get a chance to rinse Wednesday night away quickly with a home game against the New York Rangers. It could work to their advantage or it might not. It depends on the individual players and what they do to get ready for puck drop. When asked if he would be curious about how his team would respond, Larsen simply said “I am.”

Werenski said it. He’s frustrated. He knows it’s not good enough. He sees an opportunity to be better. The question here is will others follow his lead and take the initiative to be better? Others need to. The efforts have simply not been good enough. There’s no dancing or sugar coating that.

Side Dishes

  • The Flames 62 shots on goal in a regular season game hasn’t been achieved since Jan 1991 when the Vancouver Canucks had 62 shots against the New York Rangers. The 62 shots are a franchise record both ways, shots for the Flames and against the Blue Jackets.
  • Elvis Merzlikins stopped 56 of 62 for a .903 save percentage. He was really good and deserved a much better effort by his teammates in front of him.
  • Alex Texier left the game after the first period with an upper body injury. Larsen said that he’ll be out for a little bit here postgame. That’s generally not a good sign. The Blue Jackets should have an update on Texier sometime Thursday.
  • ESPN+ had an issue Wednesday night where the start of the Flames/Blue Jackets game was blacked out in the United States. The game was inadvertently marked as a national TV game even though it wasn’t per a spokesperson with ESPN+. The issue was fixed in the first period. For Blue Jackets’ fans, perhaps they wished the game stayed blacked out.