When opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage of it. You don’t know how many chances you’ll get at something special. The opportunity may never present itself again.
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, certain players find themselves in that exact position. Head coach John Tortorella alluded to it Friday when speaking to the media in Banff, Alberta.
“I’ll put it to you this way,” Tortorella said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for some of these guys that knows this team is dying for offense to step up and take the responsibility. Luc (Pierre-Luc Dubois) being one of them along with a couple of others. It’s an opportunity.”
Tortorella was asked if he thought the absence of injured players were affecting the play of who was there. Tortorella called that a “cop out.” Then he talked about the current opportunity.
Our Dave Hall recently wrote about the sputtering Blue Jackets’ offense. This was on full display Wednesday night in Calgary.
The Blue Jackets scored twice in the first period to build a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Devin Shore and Gus Nyquist. But then they didn’t score again.
The team was unable to consistently generate much the rest of the game. So despite holding a 2-0 lead, they kept the Flames in the game. Next thing you know, a turnover leads to a goal against. Then with under two minutes left, the Flames made it 2-2.
Had the Blue Jackets generated even just one more goal, the end of this game likely doesn’t happen the way it did. That’s what Tortorella is saying about the state of the offense. It’s an opportunity not only to chip in offense, but to help the team make the playoffs.
If the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs, it has to happen with the guys on the ice. They may or may not get extra help down the stretch. But they still have to press on and find wins without making excuses.
Dubois is a big one. But he’s not alone. Nyquist needs to continue to produce. Boone Jenner needs to step up. Eric Robinson has a chance to be special especially given his speed. Alex Wennberg is a veteran who’s been in Columbus long enough to know what to do.
This opportunity is available for the entire roster. No one is excluded from playing at a higher level. What better time to start than Saturday night on the second half of Hockey Night in Canada against Edmonton? The time is now for this team.
With the games getting fewer and fewer, teams will be more desperate for wins and points. The Blue Jackets have to come in ready to go and have the energy from puck drop. While having energy is big, finding ways to finish is what it’s all about.
Many of the current Blue Jackets didn’t imagine themselves having to play an important role at this critical juncture of the season. Do you think Stefan Matteau in October thought he’d have a chance like this to play important minutes in a playoff race? What about Andrew Peeke? We all thought he’d be developing in Cleveland. Instead he’s holding down a spot on defense trying to get to the big dance.
This is what Tortorella means by opportunity. These players have a chance to make a lasting impression with their performance now. Don’t think for a second that the coaching staff and management aren’t looking at this as an opportunity to evaluate for the future.
Those that step up now and perform could work their way into the future plans of the Blue Jackets when maybe they were further behind before. You want to make a statement? Do it with several key players out and take your best shot. You just might earn the trust of Tortorella and management. This is their chance. It might be their only one.
That should be all the motivation these Blue Jackets need. Energy shouldn’t be an issue knowing what’s at stake. With games coming up in Edmonton, in Vancouver and then hosting the Penguins, these three games carry extra importance given the way the standings look.
By the time the Penguins’ game is over, the Blue Jackets will either have more confidence by still holding on to a playoff spot or they might be overtaken if they can’t find success.
The question we will start to get an answer to is who rises up to the occasion and takes advantage of this prime playing opportunity? Want to be a part of the future of the Blue Jackets potentially? Play to a level where the decision-makers have no choice but to consider you. It’s the only way for them to play at this point. It’s truly a chance of a lifetime for them to make a lasting impression.
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 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.