The 2020-21 season might be one the Columbus Blue Jackets might want to forget. Instead, they should just go directly to the draft, where they have three first-round picks to add key players to their arsenal. While no one coach or player was responsible for what transpired, all can take some responsibility. If they can do that, then it’s possible next season will be a bounce-back year.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 15.38% (27th)
Penalty Kill: 78.95% (28th)
Goals For: 137 (29th)
Goals Against: 187 (25th)
Oliver Bjorkstrand led the team in goals (18), assists (26), and points (44). Despite the inconsistencies throughout the lines and the season, he’s been the one constant. Bjorkstrand has been well worth the contract extension he signed, and it’s one of Jarmo Kekalainen‘s better decisions. If Bjorkstrand can continue to be a solid fixture in a sea of chaos, the Blue Jackets just might be able to see their way out of the black hole they’re in.
The entire season. Columbus’ play on both sides left something to be desired. They have struggled when the puck is in their zone and have failed to take shots or make the ones they do take worth it. This could be seen in the 12 overtime losses, which were all by one point. One well-placed shot might have made a difference in those games. While the season jumped the rails, it can be back on track with a lot of work this offseason.
Behind the Bench Analysis
It’s no secret John Tortorella isn’t the easiest coach to play for, but even he couldn’t rescue this season for the Blue Jackets. Special teams have been a killer for players and the coaching staff, and they never found a way to bounce back. They were able to work around injuries and make do with what they have, but to no avail. There were also inconsistencies with the lines, which didn’t allow for much chemistry. Finally, poor decision-making all around contributed to the poor season. Tortorella has made it clear he will not be back as the coach, so perhaps with a new leader, there will be a reset in planning.
Front Office Analysis
Kekalainen has tried to make the Blue Jackets a team able to go the distance. This season would not be a passing grade, but an “E” for effort might be awarded. Getting Patrik Laine on the team was a great move, but he appeared not to be too comfortable at times, and his play reflected that. Acquiring players like Max Domi, Mikko Koivu, and Mikhail Grigorenko started out as good moves but ended up giving Columbus poor results.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
The Blue Jackets have nine picks overall in the draft. Three of those are in the first round, and two of them are from trades with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Stefan Noesen) and Tampa Bay Lightning (Brian Lashoff). They also have an extra pick in the fifth round, thanks to a trade with the New Jersey Devils (Ryan Murray).
Offseason Checklist & Prognosis for 2021-2022
Columbus is a deeply flawed team, but gains can be made with the right decisions and player buy-in. The 2021-22 season still might be full of difficulty and hardship, and Kekalainen has tough decisions to make. Unloading a few players and acquiring players in free agency will be the place to start.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
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