Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Another game, another loss for the Columbus Blue Jackets. This time, they didn’t hold a lead in the entire game while the New Jersey Devils imposed their will in a 6-3 win that saw them in control most of the night.

The Devils were paced by Jack Hughes’ hat trick. He scored 47 seconds into the game and with 47 seconds left in the game to complete his hat trick. In the middle, he scored his 100th NHL goal.

The Blue Jackets elected to start Daniil Tarasov in his first NHL game since last March. He had spent the early part of his season working his way back from a knee injury. The rust was clearly visible. He made 24 saves on 29 shots.

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However, the night got off on the wrong foot when Johnny Gaudreau made an awful turnover that was converted to Hughes’ first goal. There was no recovering from that on this night.

One Big Unanswered Question

The Blue Jackets are once again for all intents and purposes out of the playoff race before the calendar flips to a new year. Last season, there were injuries to key players that derailed them from even getting started.

While there are some significant injuries this season the Blue Jackets are dealing with, that is not a valid excuse. That’s because most of their current 10-17-5 record was comprised when the team was relatively healthy.

You know how the old saying goes. You are what your record says you are. That’s true with these Blue Jackets. It leads us into the one, big unanswered question that no one on the team has answered or been willing to answer to this point. In order for the team to eventually take the next step, it is of utmost important that they find the answer to this question. Perhaps no one on the team can answer this question which would sound all the alarm bells off.

Why has there been such a lack of progress for the Blue Jackets?

Lack of Progress Most Concerning

This is the question at the very heart of the matter for the Blue Jackets. The 2023-24 season at a minimum should have been one in which there was tangible progress throughout the team.

Here’s the sad reality of the Blue Jackets’ situation. In 2022-23, they had 10 wins in 32 games with a record of 10-20-2. In 2023-24, they have 10 wins in 32 games with a record of 10-17-5. The only difference is the three extra points from losing in overtime.

Blue Jackets’ management have not seen tangible progress in the standings this season. (Photo credit: Mark Scheig, the Hockey Writers)

This alone should be an indictment against the entire Blue Jackets’ organization and proof that their current approach isn’t working. But it seems no one has an answer to why there has been such a lack of progress.

Something just isn’t right with this team. Given the various moves that were made by Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets appeared to be better on paper. On paper is of course the key words here.

Moves Made Have Not Improved Team

The Blue Jackets knew they needed to make changes on their blue line. They didn’t hesitate in doing so. They traded for Ivan Provorov. They completed a sign-and-trade for Damon Severson. With Provorov and Zach Werenski each capable of playing huge minutes, the potential was there for a much-improved defense.

Just one problem. The Blue Jackets’ defense is one of the worst in the NHL.

The Blue Jackets allow 3.63 goals per game. That’s the second-highest in the NHL. They also allow 34.5 shots on goal per game. That’s the third highest in the NHL. That’s after handing out an eight-year, $50 million contract to Severson and after acquiring Provorov.

Damon Severson was brought on to help the Blue Jackets’ defense. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This defense was supposed to be better, right? If you want to point at the goaltending, it hasn’t been great but it has been better than last season. The goalies aren’t the ones allowing teams to get almost 35 shots every game. As good a leader as Zach Werenski is, his play hasn’t been good enough for someone with the contract he has. He’s being paid as a top-pair defensemen. The points are good. His play in his own end has not been good at all. He’d be the first to say that.

Then up front, what looked promising has turned into a situation where things haven’t gone right on most nights. Johnny Gaudreau while better of late hasn’t been himself most of the season. Patrik Laine is injured but before that was a shell of himself.

The young players were expected to take a step. The Russians led by Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov and Yegor Chinakhov have played well and been their best line on some nights. Adam Fantilli has come in and shown what he could become. They’re bright spots to be sure, but it hasn’t led to tangible progress yet.

Need for Tangible Progress

If you felt the Blue Jackets were going to come into the 2023-24 season and completely dominate the league and take it by storm, we’re not sure what to tell you. The feeling by most was that this season would be an improvement in the standings coupled with tangible progress throughout the team.

It’s reasonable to expect most would have been satisfied if the Blue Jackets had their ups and downs while showing real progress, being competitive and in a playoff race. There hasn’t been real progress so far. They have shown moments of being competitive but not consistently for a full 60 minutes. And they are not in the playoff race.

But why? That’s the question that every important decision maker on the Blue Jackets has to put a focus on. While there is some validity to the point the team is young and learning, that doesn’t explain the entire situation. There are enough veterans on the team that should have them in a better position in the standings. This team has no excuses to fall back on when it comes to why it hasn’t worked again. The ultimate question becomes what will they do about it now?

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When it comes time to decide what to do, status quo cannot be an option. It just can’t. Something, likely many things, need to change to get back on the path of tangible progress. That progress needs to be obvious. It needs to be visible for everyone to see. As it stands now, it’s a Blue Jackets’ team that appears ready to play out the string with 50 games remaining. That is completely unacceptable.

But we go back to our original question. Why such a lack of progress? Until this question has valid answers attached to them, it’s reasonable to expect more of the same from these Blue Jackets. That should concern everyone involved.

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The post Blue Jackets Lack of Progress Most Concerning Part of Season appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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