Blue Jackets Youth Teaching Veterans Valuable Lesson

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ point streak lives on.

Although Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie scored a power-play goal in overtime to lift the Capitals to a 2-1 win on Friday night, the Blue Jackets still earned an important point in the standings. With that point, the Blue Jackets have points in nine straight games (6-0-3) while going 2-0-1 against the NHL’s best team. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Here’s the even more impressive part. The Blue Jackets have earned 15 of a possible 18 points with nowhere close to their full lineup. If you count Scott Harrington missing Friday’s game with an illness, the Blue Jackets were down 10 regular players due to injury or illness. And yet, this team is in every game and gaining important points in the standings.

Coupled with the New York Rangers win over the Carolina Hurricanes Friday, the Blue Jackets inched closer to the playoffs. They now sit just five points out of the second wildcard spot in the East.

How are the Blue Jackets doing this? While there are many factors in play here, Joonas Korpisalo’s play for instance, there’s one thing that we’re seeing that is turning into a big development for them. It’s that their depth is able to enter the lineup and make an impact.

This current Blue Jackets roster is constructed of many members of the Cleveland Monsters. Yet they are not missing a step. Not only are they not missing a step, the team as a whole is simply playing better than the team that started this season.

Youth Teaching a Lesson

What’s the lesson to be learned here? It’s simple. The veterans on the team, especially those currently injured, better be watching what’s unfolding.

There is energy up and down the roster. There’s a sense of team. There’s a feeling that this team can beat anyone on any given night.

Look who scored the Blue Jackets goal on Friday. It was Jacob Lilja. The goal was assisted by Riley Nash and Ryan MacInnis. It’s one thing to get contributions from their newcomers. It’s another to get those contributions in important moments of games. That goal gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead. It was also Lilja’s first NHL goal and MacInnis’ first NHL point.

Here’s the point. It doesn’t matter what the injury situation is. The Blue Jackets will carry on and play whoever is available. But they expect to have success just as much with their current roster as they would with their fully healthy roster. That’s why this points streak better be a wake-up call for the veterans.

Coach John Tortorella acknowledged postgame how good it is to be around this team right now.

“It’s a team that has a little bit of belief in it as far as all the new bodies,” Tortorella said. “I think it can show us some things as far as if you play hard as a team and care just about the team and not thyself, I think you get some things accomplished. A lot of injuries we’ve had and people coming up here and playing, it’s a good group to be around right now.”

The Current Injured

In case you’ve lost track of all the injuries, here is the current list of Blue Jackets dealing with ailments.

  • Brandon Dubinsky
  • Markus Nutivaara
  • Ryan Murray
  • Emil Bemstrom
  • Josh Anderson
  • Andrew Peeke
  • Cam Atkinson
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand
  • Sonny Milano

This is quite the injured list. These players will slowly start to come back. When they do, they better bring their best effort. The youth of this team is showing the veterans what is required for success. And in a couple of cases, even if they’re ready to come back, who are you going to take out of the lineup?

Nutivaara is listed as day-to-day. But when he’s ready to return, is it a 100% guarantee he goes right back in? When the team is healthy, you have Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Ryan Murray, David Savard, Vladislav Gavrikov and Dean Kukan. Who are you taking out?

Forwards wise, it’s likely many of the current group will end up back in Cleveland once the team is healthy. But the veterans better be ready to step in and continue to bring the energy the youth have brought.

Anderson has a huge second half of his season upcoming. So does Atkinson. So does Bemstrom. They need to heed the words of Tortorella and the lesson being taught to them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for years, these players need to lead the way in terms of what’s expected.

John Tortorella Columbus Blue Jackets
John Tortorella will have some interesting decisions to make once the Blue Jackets get healthy. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Why is this important? Tortorella said that he has to make decisions not only for now but for the future of this team. Very few things are set in stone. The rest of this season will influence these decisions. Some of the youth may have won favor with the organization based on their play. While some veterans may not be as safe as we think.

Only time will tell. But for now, the youth have infused energy and life into this team and have helped the Blue Jackets back to the playoff fight. It’s going to lead to some potentially hard and interesting decisions later. Too much depth is never a bad thing especially when you get results. Hopefully the veterans take this important lesson to heart.