The fun and games of the All-Star Game are over. As great as it was to see both Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson shine in San Jose, it’s time for them and the rest of the Columbus Blue Jackets to get back to business.
They have to get back to business despite what’s going on off the ice and outside their locker room. They have no choice but to focus on winning.
We are now less than one month away until Jarmo Kekalainen and his staff have to make one of the most important decisions in Blue Jackets history. It seems things are well underway in that regard already.
Artemi Panarin’s agent, Daniel Milstein, said he wants another meeting with his client before he informs #CBJ of Panarin’s willingness to negotiate a contract w Blue Jackets. The two met over the weekend in Miami, but a second meeting now is necessary.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 27, 2019
From a fan and media perspective, this is the story. What will the Blue Jackets do? Will Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky still be Blue Jackets? It will be the talk of the hockey world.
There in lies the challenge for the players. They have to block out the noise in this upcoming month in the same way they have all season. With time running out until the deadline and the pressure in games increasing, they must stayed focused on the task at hand. Their most important game is the next one on the schedule. It’s cliche but it’s more important than ever.
Setting the Scene Leading Up to the Deadline
There are 13 games left for the Blue Jackets until the Feb 25 trade deadline. These games could possibly dictate the direction the Blue Jackets ultimately take. Of the 13 games, six are at home and seven are on the road. Is their schedule easy? In a word, no.
The Blue Jackets host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Then the schedule gets increasingly difficult. They play in Winnipeg on Thursday. They’re back home Saturday against the Blues, a team many wrote off early but find themselves just three points out of the playoffs in the West. Then comes a season defining stretch at least to this point.
The Blue Jackets go west to play Colorado, Arizona and Vegas. They then come home for the Capitals and Islanders in consecutive games. Then to finish up the 13-game stretch, at Chicago, vs. Tampa Bay, at Montreal, at Ottawa, vs. San Jose.
What Must the Blue Jackets Accomplish Here?
In these 13 games, the Blue Jackets must keep the Islanders, Capitals and Penguins in sight. They must avoid an extended losing streak especially against those three teams. The Blue Jackets and Penguins play in the first game after the trade deadline and then have two more meetings after that.
What will be interesting to watch is the goaltending situation. Joonas Korpisalo has seen more playing time of late. He’s played well in that time. With the uncertainty of Bobrovsky’s future in play, could we see a more even split between the two netminders? They don’t play any back-to-backs until the end of the 13-game stretch, when they have two sets.
Even more interesting was a quote by President of Hockey Operations John Davidson to the Columbus Dispatch’s Michael Arace. In it, Davidson said that there are astericks around Bobrovsky that he didn’t want to discuss. He went as far as saying it would rectify itself by the trade deadline or by July 1.
If the Blue Jackets hope to make it through this 13-game stretch with a winning record, they’ll need both goaltenders on top of their game. Can Bobrovsky put the distractions aside?
Decision February and perhaps the most interesting month in Blue Jackets history is upon us. What is in store for us? We start to find out Tuesday.
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.