The Columbus Blue Jackets spoiled their fans with their record-setting 16 consecutive victories from November 29 to January 3. But here we are, 16 games past the end of their streak, and we’re looking at a profoundly different Blue Jackets team.
A team that spent the entire month of December in the win column is now struggling to piece together wins. The Jackets are 7-8-1 since their streak was snapped and have sunk to third in the division – one point behind Pittsburgh and only two points ahead of the fourth-place New York Rangers.
The Jackets are struggling in nearly every category. According to NHL.com, in their last 17 games, they have been outscored 58-47. Their power play, which won them games in the first half of the season, is a horrendous 11.9% and their faceoff win percentage is 47.6%.
The frustration is beginning to mount inside the organization and among the fan base, myself included. I thought I should share some of my thoughts on the post-streak Blue Jackets. I think they call this venting.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The last 16 games for the Jackets have been equivalent to a roller-coaster ride. Up and then down, back up and then right back down again. Since their game on January 22 in Ottawa, the Jackets have twice followed the same pattern of winning one game and then losing the next two. If they lose this Saturday vs Detroit, they will continue that pattern for the third consecutive three-game sequence.
The inconsistency in their recent play is becoming more and more excruciating to watch. LIke I said before, Jackets fans were spoiled with the streak. We simply got used to winning, a feeling we had never felt before. We expected the Jackets to win every game. I’m trying not to be hypocritical because I set the bar for the Jackets extremely low this season like most hockey experts did. But after they blew my expectations out of the water, they left me no choice but to raise the bar.
But the Jackets’ recent troubles to rediscover their game has caused me to reset the bar again. I have unfastened it, brought it back down a little bit and it’s going to stay put (unless they give me a good enough reason to move it again).
The Blue Jackets have been trying to gain respect around the league for years and the streak caught the attention of all other 29 teams in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets, who climbed the ladder to reach the top of the league standings a month ago, garnered their well-deserved respect, but with that comes a lot of pressure. It’s a level of pressure that Columbus has never dealt with before. After years and years of being the underdog, they have changed roles, looking down at most of the other teams instead of looking up to them.
Opponents might not be sleeping on the Jackets anymore. Perhaps they’re more prepared to face them with the mindset that they’re about to take on a good team. I don’t really want to believe that the reason behind the Jackets’ recent poor performances is that their opponents are now bringing their “A” game every time they play them. That could play into it but I think a better reason for the dip in the Jackets’ play is that their not bringing their own
All Games Matter
Their effort has been questioned by head coach John Tortorella a few times lately. He should have no reason for that at this team of the year.
In the second half of the season, every game counts. Almost every team in the league is fighting for a playoff spot. So, every game could be treated like a playoff game. I’m not a huge fan of that belief but I do believe that the Jackets need to display the “want-to” in every game they play, not just some games.
I don’t know why but it seems like the Jackets often play to the level of their competition. They elevate their game when they play some of the top teams in the league. The Jackets have beaten the Capitals, Rangers, Canadiens, Ducks and Oilers all twice. They’ve also taken three out of four possible points against the Penguins, Blues, and Kings. All of these teams are currently in a playoff spot.
But teams on the other end of the spectrum have given the Jackets fits, especially in the last month or so. They have lost three of their last four home games, being outscored 10-1 and shut out twice in those three losses. Their last two home losses were to New Jersey and Vancouver, each in the bottom third of the league.
The consistency that the Jackets found in their game during their win streak is lost. While they search for it, many Jackets fans are reaching for the panic button while management is being pressured to make moves by the trade deadline.
Filling the Holes
The NHL trade deadline is two and a half weeks away and there could be some big moves around the league. In the case of the Jackets specifically, their recent play might have their front office compelled to shake things up by March 1. For all we know, Columbus General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen might be on the phone right now.
I can guarantee that Kekalainen’s phone will be ringing all the way up to the deadline. If the conversation doesn’t involve a depth defenseman, a center who can win faceoffs or a backup goaltender, Jarmo is likely hanging up. The flaws of the Jackets’ team – faceoffs are a major issue – have been exposed in the last few weeks, especially. I think this will cause Jarmo to feel more inclined to pull the trigger on at least one offer he receives in the upcoming days.
That’s right, people. Days. We could be just a few days away from introducing some new faces to the Jackets team. We’ll see if the Jackets’ front office feels the desperation to acquire pieces for a possible Jackets playoff run.
Coming Back Down to Earth?
I suppose you could say that. The Jackets during their streak were maybe embodying an elite, Cup contender when in reality they’re just a legitimate playoff contender. But it’s unfair to say that they are only a slightly above-average team.
The Blue Jackets have proven they belong among the league’s best this season and now is not the best time to put their fans in a frenzy. Jackets fans have seen this movie many times – the one where the team gets their hopes up only to crush them in the end. They don’t want to see that again.
Rather than seesaw their way into the postseason, I want to see them playing their best hockey down the stretch. I want them to give us all a reminder of how good this Jackets team truly is.
C’mon Jackets, give me a reason to re-adjust that bar again.