Columbus Blue Jackets: A Broken Cannon

Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are 12-26-6 this season, sitting 31st in the league. In a season that was seen as a transitional stage for the organization, the Jackets seem to have taken one step forward and three steps back. Their offense looks stale despite going big-game hunting, their defensive structure is lackadaisical at best, and their goaltending seems to have a lot of incredulity every night. To sum it up, the Blue Jackets are in big trouble.

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A Busy Offseason 

When the Blue Jackets inked Johnny Gaudreau to a contract worth 9.75 million dollars per year for seven years, it was seen as a statement signing. This put the Blue Jackets on watch throughout the NHL, as they were going all in. After trading Oliver Bjorkstrand to the Seattle Kraken and signing Patrik Laine and Zachary Werenski, the Blue Jackets were finally committing to an identity. With a successful off-season, the anticipation was surreal in Ohio.

Broken On Both Sides

Half a year later, it seems any hope or drive for the Blue Jackets had evaporated. The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team without an identity. The team as a whole looks fragmented, with an offense that fails to execute on the minimalistic chances it creates, and the defense fails to have clean, proper breakouts. The Blue Jackets currently sit 30th in the league for both goals scored per game at 2.54, as well as goals against 163.

On special teams, both the power play and penalty kill fail to change momentum. If anything, the units give their opponent a reason to fight. On the power play, the Blue Jackets sit 31st in the league with a 15.45 percent success rate. They have a 75.74 percent kill rate on the penalty kill, ranking them 19th in the league. Nevertheless, good hockey teams find ways to win, including capitalizing on opportunities on special teams.

The Injury Plague 

This team has been dealt the short hand with injuries to key players. When a team loses a star, it feels like a void in the locker room, and it continues when your captain goes down. With players like captain Boone Jenner, Jakub Voracek, Jake Bean, and Patrik Laine all missing significant time through the season, it takes a toll on a team trying to find structure. Another significant loss is in former second-round pick Alexandre Texier, who was ruled out for the entirety of the 2022-2023 season to be back home in France with family. With key players coming in and out of the lineup, it’s hard to build chemistry with linemates.

Goaltending Woes 

Along with the insufficient defense, this core demonstrates in front of the net, the goaltenders defending the cage have also struggled. The three starting goalies this season have been Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins, and Daniil Tarasov. Unfortunately, all three have struggled immensely. Korpisalo has played the best out of the three, posting a goals saved above expected of 7.0, with a .913 save percentage in 15 starts. Daniil Tarasov has posted a goals saved above expected of -.6, with a .907 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.40 in 11 starts. But the major struggle has been in Elvis Merzlikins. In 13 starts, Merzlikins has goals saved above expected of -19.8, a save percentage of .865 percent and a goals against average of 4.52. In addition, no goalie has a shutout this season.

Looking Ahead 

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in trouble. If they want to find ways to win, it needs to start with coaching. Head coach Brad Larsen has failed to gel any offensive structure with the team, and despite their big moves, it’s backfired immensely. As a result, the team looks to be in serious trouble in not only winning but forming an identity and bringing a winning culture. If the team has any desire to raise eyebrows for next season, they need to make changes. Adjust special teams, give the goaltending tandem confidence, and bring grit and passion each and every night. Until then, this team is going to battle with a broken cannon.


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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

 

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