The Columbus Blue Jackets stole most of the national headlines leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. By the time the dust settled, they have four new players on board aiming for a long playoff run.
It started Friday with the acquisition of Matt Duchene. The Blue Jackets then won in Ottawa that night with Duchene in uniform. Then came Saturday with the acquisition of Ryan Dzingel. It wrapped up Monday with the acquisitions of Keith Kinkaid and Adam McQuaid.
With all these moves, the Blue Jackets served notice to the rest of the NHL that they’re in it to try to win a Stanley Cup this season.
Duchene was the key piece here as it addressed a gaping hole at center. The other moves then helped fortify other important places in the lineup. Dzingel gives the Blue Jackets six different 20-goal scorers. Kinkaid is there to give goaltending depth if something were to happen to Sergei Bobrovsky. GM Jarmo Kekalainen admitted the team will carry three goaltenders the rest of the season. And Adam McQuaid gives the team defensive depth especially given the absence of Ryan Murray.
Measuring the Impact
While it is too early to grade these trades, it’s not too early to measure the impact to both the players on the team and the fan base. If there is one word I could use to describe the mood from what I’ve seen, it’s ecstatic, both for the players and for the long-suffering Blue Jackets’ fan base.
For the team, players want to win. Think of the message going mostly all-in sends to the players in the locker room. Duchene has never experienced this and now will get a chance to chase a Stanley Cup on a team going for it. McQuaid admitted he was excited with the situation he was going to thanks to the moves made. Panarin and Bobrovsky stay so they get a chance to chase a Stanley Cup. You could just tell the level of excitement based on the play in the last two wins, both shutouts by Bobrovsky.
There’s a certain vibe in the room. Duchene admitted to feeling this vibe as something he’s never experienced before.
Matt Duchene was asked about his initial thoughts on Columbus, and was glowing in his response. “From what I’ve seen so far, I’ve never felt the vibe that I’ve felt in this room. It’s pretty amazing.” #CBJ
— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) February 25, 2019
The team still needs to get to the playoffs, but it’s clear the vibe and energy is very high.
As for the fan base, they are starving for a winner. They’ve waited 20 years to see playoff success. They’ve been through some of the roughest pain that any fan base has experienced. Now they get a chance to embrace this new-look team and support them in their pursuit of a deep playoff run and more.
Flash back to Saturday for a minute. Nationwide Arena had its largest crowd of the season at 19,025 against the Sharks. It was their ninth sellout of the season. That’s before the trades. Now with an improved roster and a realistic chance at chasing down the Metropolitan Division, fans have a chance to make Nationwide Arena a pain for opponents to play in. Once the arena gets going, it’s loud for a long time. Twenty years of emotions could come out if the Blue Jackets enjoy playoff success.
Risky But Oh Well
There are many who think this is a risky move by the Blue Jackets. There’s no doubt about that. They now have six UFAs on their roster and a chance all of them walk. Management isn’t concerned about that even if it happens. They cite the strength of their remaining prospects Liam Foudy, Emil Bemstrom and Alexandre Texier as reasons to be optimistic for the future as well.
Nope. This trade deadline was all about management showing the team and fans how badly they want to win. The need was there given how the last few deadlines have gone. Management met that expectation with a flourish. Now it’s up to the team to channel that positive energy into results. They have the team to make a deep run. Now the time has come to prove it.
But no matter what happens, the energy around the team and the fan base is palpable. That makes for a successful trade deadline for these Columbus Blue Jackets.