State of The Union (Blue)

Anthony Perkins Avatar

Columbus Blue Jackets, 16-24-10, 8th Metro Division

written by: #GoldenKuraly

The Columbus Blue Jackets have reached the All-Star Weekend and what a season it has been for this team. At the conclusion of the 22-23 season, Brad Larsen was promptly informed that he would not be returning to the team as head coach. Rumors swirled for months about who would be taking the reigns of this team that is deep with young talent, and needs developed. Following a season that found them breaking the record for most goals allowed (again) they tried to stymie that by acquiring Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils for a 3rd Round Draft pick in the 2024 draft. They also acquired Ivan Provorov from the LA Kings, by way of the Philadelphia Flyers, for a 1st round pick in the 2023 draft, and a conditional 2nd round pick (2024 or 2025 draft).

Columbus failed to win the draft lottery and the Conner Bedard sweepstakes so instead they found themselves drafted 3rd overall. Many experts had Adam Fantilli being the obvious #2 pick, going to the Ducks and Columbus selecting C Leo Carlsson from Sweden, or C Will Smith from the FPHL. That was until something happened, Adam Fantilli WANTED to go to Columbus. Much to everyone’s surprise, Anaheim selected Leo Carlsson at 2 and Adam fell into Columbus’ lap. Things were looking great. Things seemed to finally be falling into place for the Blue Jackets and their fan base.

Columbus Blue Jackets select Adam Fantilli, Center, Michigan 3rd Overall

July 1st, GM Jarmo Kekalainen announced Mike Babcock would be the 9th Head Coach in Blue Jackets history. This hiring came with mixed reviews from the fan base. Perhaps Babs had changed? He talked a big talk, about change and understanding where he had gone wrong with players in Toronto. Turns out, that was all just talk because on the morning of September 10th, Spittin’ Chiclets podcast broke a story about Mike Babcock making players uncomfortable by asking them to see personal stuff on their phones.

After a short investigation by the NHLPA, and Blue Jackets front office, Babcock resigned from his position, just a week before the Blue Jackets training camp was officially set to open. Pascal Vincent was then named the 10th Head Coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 This season has thus far been nothing short of a drama filled rollercoaster in Columbus. Elvis Merzlikins’ play has been much improved over last year. Despite that, he still was a healthy scratch at the end of December, causing so discomfort to him. He said in an interview he had formally requested a trade. John Davidson, and Jarmo Kekalainen both say it was a miscommunication between them and Elvis’s agent. Elvis is back in net as the #1 goalie, earning his first shut out in almost two years against the Blues on the 30th.

Injuries continue to be an issue for the Blue Jackets, Johnny Gaudreau is the only player to have not missed a game due to injury or being a healthy scratch. Adam Fantilli had only missed 1 game d/t injury, he took a skate blade to his calf Sunday night in Seattle, and they thought he was only going to miss Tuesday night’s game against the Blues. Unfortunately, it was revealed on Wednesday that Fantilli would be missing 8 weeks d/t the injury. Patrik Laine has entered the Player Assistance Program, and we don’t have a timeline on when he will return.  David Jiricek is frustrated with his NHL playing time. JD says its blown out of proportion, it’ll be interesting to see where this story goes as the season continues.

“He’s a good guy, who’s got some issues. Very tough to control. I know that he, before the season started, was going to give for every goal and assist, money to mental health. I do know that he’s put out a statement since he’s gone on the shelf, that mental health is something that people have to deal with. With that being said, you can kind of read between the lines. He’s going to have to go through a process to get himself ready to see if he wants to come back. We’re all pulling for him. We’re hoping like hell he’s on the road to recovery,”

John Davidson via Hockey and Hounds on Rothman and Ice, 97.1 The Fan Columbus, Ohio

Entering the All-Star break the 23rd Columbus Blue Jackets team are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. The found themselves on a 10 day, 5 game road trip across Western Canada to finish off the first half of the season. They survived the trip 2-2-1, arriving at 16-24-10 for 42 points. They find themselves 8th in the Metro, 16th in the East, and 28th in the NHL. If the season ended today, they would have a 9.5% chance to win the lottery. Macklin Celebrini is the consensus #1 pick.

Here is a breakdown of their first half stats:

Goals For: (19th)

Goals against 183 (31st)

Assists: 238 (24th)

Power Play: 14.7% (26th)

Penalty Kill: 77.6% (23rd)

Johnny Gaudreau leads the team in points with 7-25-32.

Zach Werenksi leads the team in assists with 27, despite missing 12 games on IR.

Kirill Marchenko leads the team in goals with 15 (7 powerplay goals).

Yegor Chinakov leads the team in game winning goals with 2.

Adam Fantilli is 4th among rookies in Goals and Points.  12-15-27

Dmitri Voronkov is 4th among rookies in Goals, and 6th in Points. 12-13-25.

                Now my opinion that nobody asked for:

As a fan of this team, it is SO hard not to be frustrated right now. This team has given up the lead or tie in the 3rd period 25 times this season. They can’t seem to play a full 60 minutes. Personally, I was excited for Pascal Vincent. I wanted him to come in and coach and surprise everyone. I wanted him to prove everyone wrong. Sadly, he’s done just the opposite. From the mishandling of the Elvis playing time situation, feigning ignorance when directly asked about it. Throwing his players under the bus in front of the media. Straight up lying about the situation involving Patrik Laine. I have lost faith in Vincent, and truth be told, I don’t see this team getting any better until the front office makes some serious changes.

With that said, our rookies have impressed me this season. Adam Fantilli is everything he was supposed to be and more. Adam is a future captain of this team, and a future hall of famer. The Russian Line made up of Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov, and Yegor Chinakov is SPECIAL, and the front office needs to do everything in their power to keep them together for years to come. Cole Sillinger is finding his groove after a sophomore slump. There are many more prospects waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

I’m anxious to see what this front office does with the trade deadline. Will they stand still, or are they going to sell? There are a handful of players I’d like to see go to other places.  The Blue Jackets have the 19th toughest schedule with 32 games remaining. Of those 32 games, 9 are against teams fighting for playoff spots. 2 games against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, 2 games against the Metro Leading Rangers, 1 more game against the Florida Panthers, which after the fireworks show we saw in Columbus on December 10th, should be a great game win or lose. I don’t see this team moving up too much in the standings. I predict the bottom 4 will be the same as last season. Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim, and Columbus will be fighting for the lottery.

Captain Boone Jenner will the Blue Jackets representative at the 2024 All-Star Game. This is his first selection.

SEASON OUTLOOK: 3/10 Highly disappointing season, we expected better, not much better but we also didn’t expect to be bottom feeders again. The added dramatics from Babs to Elvis and Jiricek. Saddening, but alas, I’ll be right here, the rest of the season.

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Anthony Perkins Avatar

One response to “State of The Union (Blue)”

  1. Rick Bennett Avatar
    Rick Bennett

    Absolutely spot on. There needs to be a shake-up from top to bottom.

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