The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a rollercoaster of a start to the 2022-23 season, and a big reason for it is the lack of production from last season’s surprise standout, Cole Sillinger. Prior to his first assist of the season against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday (Oct. 25), he was one of two players who had yet to record a point. He was also the only person to play in every game without recording a point, too. Now the only pointless player is Adam Boqvist, but he has spent half the season as a healthy scratch.
Sillinger doesn’t find himself in a much better situation with a single point either. He’s tied in points with Patrik Laine, who has only played two games to date, and fourth-line grinder Mathieu Olivier. It’s also worth noting that in the five games in which Sillinger has had the most ice time this season, all five have been losses. While it’s ridiculous to say that’s the only reason for the losses, it’s not a great statistic for a player who is supposed to be a major bright spot for the organization’s future.
Sillinger’s Lack of Consistency
Consistency has been one of Sillinger’s major weaknesses so far in his NHL career. Last season, he had stretches where he’d go for long periods without recording a single point. It’s normal for a teenager to have difficulties in the NHL. With that being said though, the organization needs to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. The former 12th overall pick was one of the most exciting parts of the 2021-22 season in an otherwise difficult year for the Blue Jackets. He was a difference-maker in quite a few games last season, but this time around he hasn’t been very noticeable.
When Sillinger is on his game and finding his way on the score sheet, he’s a very good player; there is no doubt about that. He has the potential to become a star in the NHL but he’ll need to be more consistent to reach his ceiling. With that being said, it’s certainly not due to a lack of effort.
How Sillinger Can Bounce Back
If Sillinger can use his first point of the season as a catalyst to spark more, then it’ll be worth keeping him as a regular in the NHL lineup. If he’s unable to do so within the next few games, a stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Cleveland Monsters wouldn’t be a bad idea. While it wouldn’t be popular with him, or fans for that matter, sometimes sending a young player to a developmental league for a short period of time can do wonders for their confidence. Of course, if he struggles at that level, then it can backfire heavily as well. Either way, with the 19-year-old only on pace for ten points this season, it’ll be a much better option than allowing him to struggle in the NHL.
Related: Blue Jackets’ Immaturity on Display Early in 2022-23
Undoubtedly it’s a difficult decision to send a player with a full season in the NHL back to the AHL, however with players like Kirill Marchenko, Emil Bemstrom, Brendan Gaunce, and Trey Fix-Wolansky all performing above a point-per-game pace with the Monsters; it may not be a bad idea. One thing is for certain, if Sillinger continues to struggle then the Blue Jackets cannot afford to keep throwing him to the wolves. For his long-term development, something will need to change sooner rather than later.