Lessons Learned From This Blue Jackets Season

What a truly unforgettable season for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

From the joy of winning the Traverse City tournament, to enduring the never-ending run of injuries, and everything in-between, this season has had everything.  It was thrilling, frustrating, exhilarating, and stressful, all at the same time.  But in the end, the team entered this offseason on a very positive note.

We now look back at this season for the Blue Jackets.  Many important lessons were learned about the team, thanks to the many ups and downs the season had.  We will focus on 3 of them here.

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Columbus has had their ups and downs this season, but they have a lot to look forward to. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blue Jackets Never Quit

Even though they had every reason to, the Columbus Blue Jackets never quit.  The injuries piled up (over 500 man games were lost.)  The losses were mounting by the game (lost 15 of 17 in October and November.)  They were essentially out of the playoff picture before December even began.  Yet, the team kept fighting.  It yielded their best winning month in franchise history, going 10-1-1 in December.

However, the Blue Jackets couldn’t make up any ground in the standings.  Things then came crashing back to earth in January, when the team went just 5-8.  February didn’t treat them any better.  The Blue Jackets went just 5-7-1 in February.  They could have just packed it in at this point.

Instead, the Blue Jackets became the talk of the NHL, by finishing the season strong.  In doing so, they had a major impact in the playoff race.  By beating the New York Islanders in a shootout on Saturday night, the Blue Jackets helped the Washington Capitals get home ice advantage in their 1st round matchup with the Islanders.  By beating the Pittsburgh Penguins before that, it ensured the Penguins got a less favorable matchup in the New York Rangers.

The Blue Jackets finished the season 16-4-1 in March and April.  You can’t ask for much more from a team who didn’t have much to play for in terms of their playoff standing.  If there is anything that we can take away from this, the Blue Jackets will never quit, no matter how bad it gets.

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The Blue Jackets went 16-4-1 in March and April. They performed like a playoff team. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

The Front Office Is Stable

A team is as good as their front office.  The Blue Jackets front office has had to endure a lot this season.  It started last summer, with Ryan Johansen’s contract situation.  The team was firm in its stance.  Prove it, and we’ll play you.  A deal ultimately got done.

Then the injury bug that would plague the team the whole season, reared its ugly head.  One after the other, injuries piled on.  For a team who was expected to make a run at a playoff berth, it was interesting to see how the front office would respond to that adversity.  As hard as it was to do, they stayed the course.  They didn’t do anything rash.  They knew this was an unusual situation.  The core remained intact.  They knew that, once everyone returned, the team would be good.  March and April proved just that.

A plan is in place.  The Blue Jackets are building from the ground up, with a brick by brick approach, as John Davidson put it.  This front office has the team in position to succeed, not only now, but in years to come.

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John Davidson is helping build the Blue Jackets up brick by brick. (Photo courtesy of Columbus Blue Jackets)

Moves Need To Be Made

When you have the kind of season the Blue Jackets had, you get a good look at the depth of the team and the organization.  Injuries forced the Blue Jackets to dip into Springfield a lot sooner than they hoped.  October and November didn’t turn out the way they had hoped it would.  It clearly wasn’t good enough.

This does afford the Blue Jackets an opportunity to review their roster and make changes as needed.  The lesson here is the team now knows what areas need the most attention.  The core is established.  But the depth needs addressed.

The most notable tweak that is needed is on the blue line.  The Blue Jackets finished the season as one of the worst teams in shots on goal allowed.  Even with most everyone back in the lineup, Columbus allowed 52 shots on goal Saturday against the Islanders.

There is a young group of defensemen, led by David Savard and Ryan Murray, that the Blue Jackets will lean on next season.  I’d like to see the team get a veteran defenseman in free agency, to help the young players along.  It’s also very possible the team looks to the draft to get another top defensive prospect into the organization.  They can pick either 1st, 8th, or 9th in this June’s draft.

There are 2 other situations that also need addressed.  The 1st is depth on the right-wing.  Cam Atkinson has a new contract.  The other current right wingers are David Clarkson, Rene Bourque, Jared Boll, Jack Skille, and Corey Tropp.  Decisions will have to be made, to see if any of those listed will be here, or how they’ll approach bringing someone in.

The 2nd area that needs addressed is 4th line center.  Mark Letestu is an unrestricted free agent.  When he has been healthy, he’s been good, especially late in the year when wingers were Jeremy Morin and Matt Calvert.  Recall the team lost Derek MacKenzie last season to free agency.  Letestu wants to be back.  If they don’t sign him, the team needs to make sure someone is in that spot who is just as reliable.

The Future Is Bright

Even though the Blue Jackets weren’t able to get into the playoffs, there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic.  This is a team that has quickly gained the respect of their opponents.  They know how dangerous this team is.  The front office is in good hands.  And appropriate moves can be made this offseason to improve the team.  If nothing else, the season has shown us how good they are, and how they can improve.  The end result will be annual trips to the playoffs.  This season was frustrating, but it will all be worth it soon.