What happened in the Columbus Blue Jackets 2016 off-season that sparked a change? This time a year ago the Blue Jackets were deciding what to do with the third overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Today the Blue Jackets find themselves knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round after an incredible regular season. What happened between the 2016 off-season and this past season?
Flashback: The Columbus Blue Jackets 2016 Off-Season
The off-season began with head coach John Tortorella saying that he was going to push them outside their comfort zone this season. Tortorella’s also stated that if they worked hard every day that it would pay off.
Tortorella held up his end of the deal as his training camp was both mentally and physically demanding. The camp was part of the a no-nonsense reboot Tortorella was trying to set up in Columbus. Having this type of camp helped prepare the Blue Jackets for the grind of the regular season.
The Calder Cup Effect
The Blue Jackets seemed to have something about them that the franchise had never seen before. The Blue Jackets have a certain confidence and swagger about them going through this season. This may have been sparked by the players coming up from the AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters. The Monsters won the Calder Cup in 2016, and nine players from that team played in Columbus this year.
Those nine players may have played a big part in giving the Blue Jackets that swagger and confidence. Another thing that those players may have done was push the veterans to play better. With good young players coming up this season that meant the veterans need to pick up their play or be replaced. Veterans like Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson answered the call. Atkinson was eighth in the league in goals. Foligno had a bounce-back year being fourth on the team in goals and lead in power-play goals.
A lot of those nine player also made big contributions throughout the season. Zach Werenski was one of those players that had a huge season. Earning 47 pointx this season Werenski broke the record points in a season by a rookie. His play this season has also played so well that he is nominated for the Calder Trophyfor the league’s most outstanding Rookie.
Bob’s Back to Form
The main reason the Blue Jackets had the season they did was because goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. In the 2015-2016 season Bobrovsky lost his confidence from the beginning of the season. However in the off-season Bobrovsky began his resurgence back to Vezina form. It began in the World Cup of Hockey when Bobrovsky was the starting goalie for Team Russia. This is where he his confidence really came back after making big saves routinely. Bobrovsky helped lead Russia to the semifinals.
Another big change for Bobrovsky was that he lost 17 pounds over the off-season. Losing 17 pounds lec Bobrovsky to feeling lot better and more agile. That allowed him to make the saves necessary to be the backbone of this Blue Jackets team.
A Big Surprise
During the off-season the Blue Jackets signed Sam Gagner as a free agent. At the time no one thought the Gagner signing was anything but a bottom-six-forward signing, with his best days behind him. Now the Gagner signing looks like the steal of free agency. Scoring 18 goals and 32 assists, Gagner set a career-high in points. Gagner’s 18 goals on the season tied an earlier career-high set in 2011-2012.
A lot of things happened this off-season that helped flip a switch that made this a complete different Blue Jackets team. All of these things took part in the change from Tortorella’s training camp to the nine players that took place in the Calder Cup run. Bobrovsky’s great off-season and the free agent signing of Gagner also were major factors in this season’s turnaround.