Columbus Blue Jackets: The Record Isn't The Real Story

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With the 2015-16 season finally wrapped up, and closed out against Chicago last night at Nationwide Arena, many fans are looking to the future of a very promising Columbus Blue Jackets squad. There is the negative that they missed the playoffs again and underperformed for the expectations set by the end of the 2014-15 season. However, the record doesn’t tell the real story of what’s in the waiting in Columbus.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Record Isn’t The Real Story

Some may look at this season and wonder what could’ve been, had it not been for the epically atrocious start to the season, and rightfully so. It seemed as though the Blue Jackets organization was the on-ice version of the famous Murphy’s Law, what could go wrong went wrong in all the worst possible ways. A young squad of talented players like Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, Brandon Saad, and a former Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes sounds much like a mixture for a playoff-bound organization. But, as it unfolded in front of everyone’s eyes, it just wasn’t meant to be.

The Blue Jackets came into the season off the back of a phenomenal finish to the 2014-15 season, where they did their yearly late run, with no playoffs, push at the end of the season. With Todd Richards, who holds the most wins in Columbus’ franchise history, most fans and sports personalities were projecting for a strong season for the Jackets, one that wouldn’t ever materialize. And despite the disappoint of another season without playoff hockey in Columbus, there are a plethora of positives to take from this season, and to look forward to moving towards the offseason as well.

Firstly, despite it being at the loss of Richards, the entrance of John Tortorella has been nothing short of a stabilizer on the scene in the Buckeye state. The team has gone from seriously out of shape and chasing the game, to one of the more physically imposing and promising clubs in the NHL. Tortorella has instilled a sense of discipline that was seriously lacking in the 0-7-0 start under Richards, and it has paid dividends for the organization as well as players like Atkinson and Boone Jenner. However, one of the few negatives that could be drawn from the hiring of Tortorella was the departure of star center Ryan Johansen, albeit for the defensive force that is Seth Jones.

The second positive to take from this season is the emergence of the forwards for Columbus, with Jenner and Saad leading the charge in the scoring charts. For the first time in Blue Jackets history, there are multiple 30-plus goalscorers in Saad and Jenner, something that won’t surprise anyone that has been paying attention this year. The hard work and physicality of Jenner suits the philosophy of Tortorella to an absolute tee, and will surely continue to produce goals come next season. Saad has been no exception to production this season and embodies the work ethic that Tortorella likes to see and compliments it well with a bag full of tricks at his disposal. Aside from these two have been many other players who have had breakout seasons, like that of Ryan Murray, Atkinson, and Joonas Korpisalo.

There is one name in the prior paragraph that deserves a paragraph all to his own, and that’s the Finnish netminder, Korpisalo. Earlier in the season he was splitting time with Anton Forsberg for the AHL-affiliate Lake Erie Monsters, yet he has stepped in and looked to be an NHL-level goaltender almost immediately. As sad as it was to witness the rough season that Bobrovsky has endured, it has brought into the line of site for what the future holds between the pipes in Columbus. However this is going to pose Tortorella and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen a very difficult decision; who is the best goalie to stick in the crease for the long haul. Can you really dump a former Vezina winner, and organization leader in career wins in favor of a generally unproven commodity? The smart course of action, and the most plausible, is to keep Bobrovsky around for next season and to develop Korpisalo with starts here and there with the Blue Jackets while giving him a full load in Cleveland for the Monsters. Only time, and a steady head at the top of the organization, will tell what is the next step in the apparent goalie dilemma in Columbus.

The last, and by far the most important of all the positives to take from the season, is the change in mentality for the Blue Jackets. They have developed a very apparent level of swagger to them over the course of the season, one that falls in line with the teachings of Tortorella. The physicality and end-to-end style of play that they have been showing improvement under since the coaches arrival has hopes high for the following season, and for the foreseeable future as well. With the players at his disposal, and the promising appearances of the former draft picks like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano, and Korpisalo, the sky is the limit for this organization. There is also the strong possibility of landing a top-five pick and becoming a strong addition to an already strong stable of young players. For now, sit back and enjoy the time off and look for the Blue Jackets to come on strong come 2016-17.

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