Blue Jackets Showing Frustration Near End of Season, Look To Finish Strong

Johnny Gaudreau races down the ice towards the Buffalo Sabres goal.
Photo: Hector Urcia | Inside The Rink

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the tail end of their season and it seems nothing is going their way. They lost their sixth consecutive game and are sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division. The Jackets were also mathematically eliminated from playoff contention earlier this week. In a recent loss, some players showed frustration afterward with a few broken sticks and in interviews. There have been some bright spots among all the losses and injuries though. There’s also a lot to look forward to in the upcoming seasons.

One thing that could go well for them is getting a good draft position in the 2024 NHL Draft Lottery. The lottery isn’t until May 12 so we have to wait for that news, but according to MoneyPuck.com Columbus has a 9.6% chance of getting the first draft pick. That gives them the 4th best odds. With the draft in mind, another event will dictate how that will go for the Blue Jackets. As mentioned in a previous article, the search for a new General Manager has begun and the candidate list is long. It’s likely to be a move made after the season as some candidates may be in their seasons or looking at the playoffs with the teams they are working for. As one of the most important positions in an NHL organization, a new GM could help turn the Jacket’s trajectory around.

While the post-season might be something to look forward to the rest of the 2023-24 season has been anything but. To understand how the team got into this position let’s look back at how it started.

Starting on the Wrong Foot

The Blue Jacket’s start to their season was not ideal for a team already having issues playing together cohesively in previous seasons. While the hiring and “resigning” of Mike Babcock threw some chaos into the mix, it also added some pressure to those left to deal with the situation. His replacement Pascal Vincent had to gear up for a season as a head coach instead of as an assistant, and he had to do it quickly.

Not So Hot Streak

Besides coaching woes, the Blue Jackets could not seem to keep players healthy. Last season saw a lot of injuries so there were constant roster adjustments between the Jackets and their AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters. This season has seen a lot of the same. While not having as many man games lost, some injuries and other issues have kept the roster and lines constantly changing. Going into this season, over a dozen players had not played at all or had not played more than 20 games for the Blue Jackets in the previous 2022-23 season. Many of those are young players in their first or second seasons.

A lack of structure and playing time together culminated in an early record of 4-7-4 for the first month of this season. In the first 20 games, the Blue Jackets had a nine-game losing streak, breaking their previous eight-game record.

Some Diamonds in the Rough

The Russian Line
It’s difficult not to talk about these guys. When Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov, and Yegor Chinakhov get together they can be a force to be reckoned with. They are ranked 12th in goals percentage among all lines in the NHL that have played as many or more minutes as they have.

Veteran Leadership
Throughout the season, three names have been constantly in the top in goals, assists, and points for the Blue Jackets. Captain Boone Jenner, Johnny Gaudreau, and Zach Werenski have all stepped up and have led the team all year. Some people may think their point totals aren’t as good as they should be and they might be right. Those totals will grow if the Jackets can grow as a team too.

The New Guys
There have been a few new faces in Columbus this year but I’m talking about Adam Fantilli and recent addition Alexander Nylander. Although he was injured, Fantilli was on a great pace for his rookie year and showed he can keep up at the NHL level. Nylander was a surprise for many people. Acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins, 25-year-old Alex had not seen much time in the NHL before this season. He had some NHL experience while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks, but he had only played 5 games for the Penguins this season. He broke a Blue Jackets record when he scored 8 goals and 3 assists in his first 11 games. Three of those goals came as a hat trick. Given some more time in the NHL, both of these players could turn out to be future stars for the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Future

It’s hard to look at some players and not see a great future ahead of them. But with how this and past seasons have gone, it can sometimes be hard to picture the Blue Jackets having sustained success. Several factors will be key to getting there though. Who the new GM will be will play a large part. Other things such as how the coaches will approach the next season, the development of players, and even off-season training could help improve the team. Hopefully, we won’t have to hold our breath too long to find out who the new GM will be, and with that, we’ll get a better idea of the team’s direction. Until then, there are still some games left in this season. While they may not be “important” wins for some, finding a little late-season success could help team morale and help start them off on the right foot for next season.

217. Jeff Rimer, The G.O.A.T. CBJectively Speaking

On this episode, we sit down with the legendary CBJ TV Play-by-Play Broadcaster, Jeff Rimer! You won't want to miss our conversation with Rims, our conversation about the OSU Women's Hockey Team winning the National Championship, and more!Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Thread, and Twitter: @CBJectivelyPodCheck us out on Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube: CBJectively SpeakingRate, review, and subscribe wherever you listen!Check out our website: www.cbjectivelyspeaking.comCheck out our merchandise: www.cbjectivelymerch.comJeremy's Stories: https://insidetherink.com/author/jpaul/Laura's Stories: https://insidetherink.com/author/lnorman/
  1. 217. Jeff Rimer, The G.O.A.T.
  2. 216. Future Reality TV Stars?
  3. 215. Blue Jackets Breakdown
  4. 214. Deadline Delusion
  5. 213. Laura's Birthday Weekend!

Lance Schrock

Credentialed Writer covering the Columbus Blue Jackets. Host of the BrewJackets Podcast.

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