It’s truly amazing how many fans are upset that their team won.
Trailing 3-1 in the third period, the Columbus Blue Jackets scored twice to force overtime against the Anaheim Ducks before winning in a shootout. Normally, every fan would enjoy such a comeback, against a good team.
That is, unless you are a fan of tanking. Then last night stung you. You thought the game was in hand in a losing way after the Blue Jackets fell down 3-1. You were like, yes, the team is getting back to what’s important which is getting the highest draft pick possible. No way that they’d come back from a two goal deficit to beat the red-hot Ducks.
Then Brandon Saad scored. Then Brandon Dubinsky tied it. Then Cam Atkinson scored in the shootout. Then Mr. Automatic in the shootout Alexander Wennberg scored. Then Joonas Korpisalo told Corey Perry “not today”. Comeback completed. The Blue Jackets earned two points in a game in which, quite frankly, they deserved it. They were the better team on Thursday.
The Columbus comeback was a sign of a bigger story. The Blue Jackets are already on record saying they will not tank, no matter what happens as a result. Thursday night was Columbus telling the tank talk to “stick it.”
The Blue Jackets are in it to win it. They could have easily folded up shop and gone home after falling behind by two. Instead, they rose up to the challenge and rallied. Saad scored his 20th goal of the season to pull them within one. Minutes later, Dubinsky connected on a power-play goal against the best penalty killing team in the league.
The leaders of the team stepped up when needed most. The defense led by Ryan Murray and Seth Jones kept the Ducks off the scoreboard after the Blue Jackets tied the game. Korpisalo made timely saves. At the end of the day, the Blue Jackets won a game the way they need to win games.
The Blue Jackets more than doubled the Ducks in scoring chances. They out shot the Ducks 34-27 in the game. They held the edge in possession. It was their most complete effort of the season. Coach John Tortorella agreed.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 12, 2016
This is the kind of game the Blue Jackets will look to play as the season winds down. With a home-heavy schedule and more favorable opponents, we should expect a turnaround. The only tanking the Blue Jackets will do is to the tank talk itself. You can count on the Blue Jackets giving full effort and trying to win every game from here on out.
This is the correct approach to the rest of the season. There is no other option. Players and coaches are playing for beyond this season. With careers on the line in some cases, tanking is not an option.
I know what some of you are thinking. What’s the point of winning now? Say goodbye to that top draft pick. I’m here to tell you, you can have a good draft pick AND not tank. Consider this for a moment.
The trade deadline comes soon. Many expect the Blue Jackets to make some moves. If they happen, the team gets younger. As a result, it’s unrealistic to expect them to win every game. Given their current place in the standings, they should get a great pick. Remember that last season’s 15-1-1 finish still got them the eighth overall pick. Don’t expect that record to happen again.
One more thing for you to ponder: Do the Blue Jackets really need Auston Matthews? Of course they could use him. What if the number one center of the future is already on the team? What if Wennberg is that player? Makes missing out on Matthews hurt less, doesn’t it? Wennberg/Dubinsky as a 1-2 punch up the middle is solid. Put good pieces around them, tweak the defense a little, get Bobrovsky back to health, and you’re right there. Having Jones is huge for this reason.
To put all your eggs in the tanking basket is wrong. How often does the team with the worst record pick first? Not that often if you look back. Now consider the new lottery changes coming this season, and you have about a 50/50 chance of picking fourth if you have the worst record. No tanks (see what I did there?).
The Columbus Blue Jackets will not tank. You should not root for tanking. Their current place in the standings will do enough to net them a nice draft pick. Consider GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s past draft record. He can find gems later in the draft that will have an impact.
Tank the tank talk. Leave that for other teams to do. That’s not the Blue Jackets way.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.