In order for the Columbus Blue Jackets to get back on the winning track, the team must end the drama

It started before the puck dropped on the Columbus Blue Jackets 2020-21 season. Pierre-Luc Dubois publicly asked for a trade. He then proceeded to go out and give half hearted efforts until he was eventually dealt for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. From there the drama piled up and did not relent. In order for the team to regain it’s focus, they must rid themselves of any and all distractions.

Max Domi’s healthy scratch, Mikko Koivu retires, Nick Foligno and David Savard get traded, John Tortorella decides not to return as coach and now rumors of former team President, John Davidson returning to Columbus. That is just a small sample of the drama that engulfed the Blue Jackets both during and after the season ended.

Patrik Laine, who is a scoring machine said he liked playing in Columbus, but his body language and on ice energy suggested different. Laine scored goals in his first three games as a Blue Jacket and then was benched in just his fourth game.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 04: Elvis Merzlikins #90 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during training camping held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on January 4, 2021. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Now it seems as though the Blue Jackets are sifting through which goalie they will keep and which will be traded. Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins, both have shown they can hold down the top spot between the pipes. Both want to be the starter.

The team needs to begin to look for a new head coach after John Tortorella and the team parted ways after the season. It all adds up and creates undue stress on players who should be focused on games and not internal struggles.

Oh another bit of drama, the Columbus Blue Jackets need a top six center. They currently do not have one on the roster. If general manager Jarmo Kekalainen elects to sign Patrik Laine to an extension and not trade him, then finding a center that can match his play is critical, regardless the team still needs a center.

COLUMBUS, OH – MARCH 3: General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches as his team warms up prior to the start of the game against the Colorado Avalanche on March 3, 2013 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Kekalainen have a lot of work to do this offseason starting with getting rid of drama.

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen knows what he wants in a head coach

Exit John Tortorella. The winningest coach in Columbus Blue Jackets history. During Tortorella’a six year run as Blue Jackets head coach he guided the team to a 447-227-166- .568 record and took the Blue Jackets to the playoffs four times. Tortorella was also brutally honest and had a short leash for any and all players who messed up during games. Many big named players were benched for long periods of time when they drew Tortorella’s ire. After the 2020-21 Blue Jackets season, John Tortorella and the team mutually agreed to part ways.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – AUGUST 11: Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets handles bench duties during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 11, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

What is next for the Columbus Blue Jackets and a new head coach? GM Jarmo Kekalainen gave a strong look into what he is looking for in the next bench boss. “I think it’s important the coach sets the standard, I think that’s why Torts was so good. He set the standard every day of how we work here and what we do and how we go about our business. I think that’s really important, how you go about it. There are different personalities, but I think strong values and the standard, that’s the key to the selection process that we have here.”

Kekalainen met for hours with Blue Jacket players. He said it was an honest meeting in which he asked what the players want in the next head coach. From the difficult to work with Tortorella, players would like a more player friendly coach.

That does not mean push-over! It means a coach who will coach in games and not bench for a simple mistake made.  That seems reasonable. John Tortorella showed the Blue Jackets what it takes to win. That should never be lost. In spite of a bad season the Blue Jackets still have a very good hockey team and should rebound with the right coach.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Assistant Coach Brad Shaw of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches his team play against the San Jose Sharks on February 2, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Defensive coach Brad Shaw is also leaving the Blue Jackets so he is not a candidate to take over as head coach and will not receive an interview. I have a hard time believing assistant coach Brad Larsen will be named coach. Larsen oversaw the Blue Jackets power play for years. A unit that was near the bottom of the NHL on a regular basis.

Who will succeed John Tortorella? That remains a mystery only Kekalainen can answer. An answer that may not be made public until after the playoffs.

How badly did the Columbus Blue Jackets miss Gustav Nyquist? More than you think

The Columbus Blue Jackets had a bad season. The team still has plenty of talent, enough to climb back into playoff contention next season. During the disappointing 2020-21 campaign the Blue Jackets were with a player who as it turned out was more important than perhaps thought. Gustav (Gus) Nyquist.

Before the season began Gus Nyquist had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Nyquist had been dealing with the injury for the past few seasons. The reason for the surgery was a cyst had grown causing further irritation to the shoulder.

During the COVID shortened 2019-20 season in 70 games played, Gus Nyquist had 15 goals, 42 points with 27 assists. A deeper look shows that with modest numbers that do not necessarily jump off the screen, Nyquist still had tremendous value to the Blue Jackets that are not measured in statistics alone.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 22: Dmitry Kulikov #7 of the Winnipeg Jets reaches to knock the puck away from Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period of a game on January 22, 2020 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Gustav Nyquist is very good at puck battles. He is relentless in pursuit of the puck. Nyquist has a habit of fighting hard for the puck and usually comes away with it. Nyquist also may be the best passer on the Blue Jackets roster. If not the best he is one of them.

This past season, the Columbus Blue Jackets missed Nyquist in those two areas. Puck battles and better passes which lead to better shots. Those are areas the Blue Jackets needed rather badly this past season.

Gus Nyquist was never going to play this season due to recovery time from surgery. Even though he started to skate with the team in March. Next season, one the should see a better one ice product from the Blue Jackets they will have Nyquist back. That will help quite a bit.

September 16 2015: Jarmo Kekalainen General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets talking to media during Media Day held by the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen  is going to be busy this offseason. He has player such as Seth Jones and Zach Werenski who need new contracts. Kekalainen also needs to find a top center and either sign one as a free agent or trade for one.

If there is one GM up to the task it is Jarmo Kekalainen.

 

Columbus Ohio is home

Embed from Getty Images As a person who was born in Columbus Ohio but grew up in East Grand Rapids Michigan, I was fighting myself. For decades, that is no joke. When my family moved back to Columbus Ohio in the late 1980’s I fought it. I dug my heels in and put up a wall. Michigan was home because, Michigan was safe.

Being adopted out of a child abuse background and an unstable family life, I moved to Michigan before the age of five. Living in Michigan allowed me to heal from the pain I suffered. I was able to leave the past behind and start a new. It was glorious.

Time and circumstance gave way to a move back to the state I did not want to be in let alone then city I most definitely did not want to be back in. Yet, God is funny, and although it has taken me a very long time I now accept that the Lord wants me to be in Columbus Ohio.

It is a getting out of the water moment for sure. To take the Lords hand and be grateful for all He has brought me through in my life. The least I can do is be thankful for His plans for me.

I am not a fan of Ohio State at all. I am a rather large fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But hockey is my favorite sport. More on that as this blog site will sift to Columbus and a steady diet of Blue Jackets content.

Columbus has a lot to offer families even during the current pandemic the Ohio economy not to mention the Columbus economy is in better shape than many states.

Through the loving of a very patient and talented wife (Erin I love you!!) as well as my children growing up and loving Columbus, not to mention a big conversation with Almighty God, I am finally at peace.

Columbus Ohio is home. It feels good to finally be able to say that and actually mean it.

Oliver Bjorkstrand has found consistency and may be the Columbus Blue Jackets best player

Embed from Getty Images That shot! That unbelievable, beautiful shot! It is a weapon Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand has always possessed. It forces defensive players to overcommit while goalies hope it does not find the back of the net. Bjorkstrand is a finesse hockey player. He needed to find a physical edge to his game and improve in the defensive end. Oliver Bjorkstrand has done that.

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella has seen the Danish forward take a huge step forward in his game. Bjorkstand who in previous seasons would be hesitant to jump into the mix on the boards now leads the charge. He is playing the puck harder.

In 2017-18 Oliver Bjorkstrand’s first NHL season, he put up 11 goals, 29 assists in 82 games played. The 2018-19 season the young forward had 23 goals and 13 assists. The reason, Bjorkstand was asked to pass less and shoot more. After all he is a pure goal scorer.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, projected as a 30 goal 60+ point player when he was selected by Columbus in the third round of the 2013 NHL draft. He carried the Cleveland Monsters (Blue Jackets minor league affiliate)  to the Calder Cup with 15 points in 16 games played during the 2015-16 AHL season.

The always smiling Bjorkstrand has been called “The cold-blooded Danish assassin” by his Columbus Blue Jackets teammates. Oliver was challenged to step up by the Blue Jackets coaching staff. Bjorkstrand got to work. His intense work ethic and drive to be even better has lead to Bjorkstrand beginning to live up to his draft day projections.

This is good news for the Columbus Blue Jackets, as I said before, Bjorkstrand has the ability to put the team on his back and carry them. He is that good and that talented.

In a league full of good young talent, fans of other teams are taking notice of Bjorkstrand. His game has come so far in a short amount of time. The sky is the limit for Oliver Bjorkstrand and the young Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Columbus Blue Jackets power play has been awful for a while, it is time for Brad Larsen to go

Embed from Getty Images This is a brutally honest look at The Columbus Blue Jackets power play which has been awful, and it has been for quite awhile. It is time the coaching staff be held accountable for a unit that is a very important unit of every hockey team.

Back at the start of the 2016-17 season until New Years Eve (December 31, 2016), the Columbus Blue Jackets played 35 games. They posted a record of 26-5-4 and led the NHL with 56 points. The Blue Jackets also had  a league leading 27.5% power play. The team scored 28 power play goals on 102 opportunities. 23.1% of the team goals scored over that 35 game stretch were scored with the man advantage. Those were the good days.

Starting on January 1, 2017, things fell apart. From that moment until this season the Columbus Blue Jackets have the worst power play in the NHL. The team has scored just 91 power play goals including Alex Wennberg’s goal on Monday night in 585 opportunities, good for a 15.6% conversion rate. Of the 640 goals scored during that time, just 14.2% have come with the man advantage. In other words, horrible.

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella, kept Brad Larsen in charge of the power play when he took over the Columbus hockey team four years ago. The fact that the Blue Jackets beat reporters do not ask pressing questions after the game is inexcusable.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have tried moving players around, shuffling personnel, everything that has been tried has been player related only. There are many times fans see players standing in their designated areas, unwilling to move around and change passing lanes in order to force a defensive reset.

For now the third season in a row, the Blue Jackets have the worst power play in the NHL. Any and all questions that have been asked, have been largely ignored, or played off entirely.

The answer is clear. It is time to remove Brad Larson and replace him with a fresh pan, a fresh set of eyes. The question is why has it not happened yet?

The Columbus Blue Jackets ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Embed from Getty Images It was a dream come true for long suffering fans of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team swept the might Tampa Bay Lightning in round one of the playoffs. Round two saw the Jackets matched up against the Boston Bruins. The Blue Jackets lost the series.

There is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the goalies, Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Blue Jackets  Sergei Bobrovsky two heavyweight goal tenders going head to head. Bobrovksy finished the series with a .921 save percentage and should not be catching too much blame, even if he recorded a .901 save percentage over the final three games. Meanwhile, Rask had a vary strong finish to the series, compiling a .948 save percentage over the six games. He had a shutout performance in Game 6 and it should be noted that he deserved a shutout in Game 4 as well .

Boston kept firing the puck at the Columbus until they broke through. Columbus looked lost at times in the offensive end of the ice leading to bad shots and not grabbing enough rebounds to keep pace with the Bruins.

The Columbus Blue Jackets did an excellent job of shutting down Boston’s stars through the first half of the series and it was the biggest reason why Columbus was able to jump out to a 2-1 lead.  The series started to shift when Pastrnak scored two huge goals in a pivotal Game 5. Boston’s stars heated up. Columbus’ stars cooled off.

Over the final three games, the Blue Jackets managed just one goal from the collection of Artemi PanarinMatt DucheneCam AtkinsonPierre-Luc Dubois and Nick Folignoup front. The lone goal came from Panarin in Game 4. The three previous games saw a handful of guys who accounted for five goals and were a big reason why Columbus claimed a series lead.

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella guaranteed the series was going to go seven games. Boston seemed driven to make the coach eat crow. So once again, Columbus Blue Jackets fans stood and cheered their team after the game six loss.

Perhaps, when fans stop cheering losses, the team will respond with more wins.

Eastern Confrence Semifinal Series, Boston Bruins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Embed from Getty Images Having surprised the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, the Columbus Blue Jackets sat, skated and practiced while waiting for their next opponent. The Blue Jackets are well rested and have healed up for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs round 2.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will begin their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup Thursday in Boston. A place that has not always been kind to Columbus. That does not matter now, in the playoffs everything is out the window.

What to look for, Boston is an older team who plays physical. They are nowhere as fast as the young Blue Jackets. Boston likes to get scoring from the sides unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning who likes to work the puck down low for shots.

The Blue Jackets need to enter this series with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. The Blue Jackets have one of the best defensive units in the NHL, it gets better added to the roster is Vladislav Gavrikov, a Russian defensemen the Blue Jackets drafted in 2015. Gavrikov elected to play in the KHL and not the AHL. Given the tougher league the Jackets were happy to allow him to play there.

Why is Vladislav Gavriko in Columbus? His KHL contract was up, at 23 years old he has fully developed and projects as a top line defensemen.  In short this means the Columbus Blue Jackets will have a shutdown top line defensive player most likely on the third line. Breaking news, that is excellent for the Blue Jackets.

Columbus, needs to keep their sticks on the ice and take away passing lanes just as they did against the Lightning. They need to use their team speed to frustrate Boston, while staying out of the penalty box. If they do, this could be another quick series for the more talented Blue Jackets.

Stanley Cup Playoff hockey, there is nothing like it. Turne in Thursday night for game 1.

In what is the biggest upset in NHL playoff history, the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the Tampa Bay Lightning

Embed from Getty Images The Columbus Blue Jackets stunning upset of the Tampa Bay Lightning, caught many fans and sports media off guard. A closer look at the series shows just how dominant the Blue Jackets were.

Two seasons worth of playoff failures paved the way for one of the biggest upsets the NHL has ever witnessed. The Columbus Blue Jackets showed they learned lessons and them applied them to perfection.

Two years ago against the Pittsburgh Penguins the Blue Jackets skated around with their sticks in the air. This year they masterfully had sticks on the ice taking away passing lane after passing lane and frustrating mighty Tampa Bay.

Last season the Washington Capitols out hit and were the more physical team in route to the Stanley Cup. This season the Blue Jackets out hit and were more physical than the Lightning.

Only one team has ever swept the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round of the playoffs and that’s the 2019 Columbus Blue Jackets. That is nearly unbelievable.  Columbus is riding a seven game road winning streak, outscoring opponents 32-10 in those games away from Nationwide Arena.

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s save percentage in the four wins was .932. Bobrovsky had an .891 save percentage in the Blue Jackets’ three regular season games against Tampa Bay. Goalie Bob showed up in a big way.

The Blue Jackets  outscored the Tampa Bay Lightning 19-8 in the series after the Bolts had beaten the Blue Jackets in three regular season games to the tune of 17-3. More impressive, 12 different Blue Jackets lit the lamp in the series.

The Blue Jackets have won 11 of their last 12 games, going back to the regular season. The Jackets have outscored their opponents 54-22 over those 12 games. To say they picked up the pace is kind.

Columbus’ odds to win the Stanley Cup,  currently second best in the playoffs   according to Money Puck’s model. Three weeks ago, their odds to claim the Cup were just 1.5%.

With the Columbus Blue Jackets sweeping the Lightning all  31 NHL teams that have now won a playoff series. The Blue Jackets were the last team to advance past the first round.

Now it is on to round two.

In stunning fashion the Columbus Blue Jackets lead the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0

Embed from Getty Images Overwhelming favorites to win the Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning look completely lost and over matched against the Columbus Blue Jackets. How did this happen? A closer looks shows us what has happened.

The Tampa Bay Lightning winners of 62 regular season games and 128 points in route to the Presidents Trophy, were heavily favored over the Blue Jackets. However, the Columbus Blue Jackets have shown they should not be treated lightly.

Game one of the playoffs saw the Lightning jump out to a 3-0 lead. Then the bottom dropped out. The Blue Jackets stunned Tampa and came back and won. Game two saw Columbus put the pedal to the metal and cruse to a 5-1 win and a 2-0 series lead.

David vs Goliath, Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson pick your analogy. Columbus fought and barley made the playoffs. That does not matter. Tampa has looked like the 8th seed.

The Lightning star players have gone silent. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point finished the season with 40 goals each and a combined 318 points!  Through two games they have zero goals and zero assists. Kutcherov and Point are -2 and Stamkos is -3. No hockey fan or writer saw that coming.

Heading back to Columbus, Kucherov has been suspended 1 game for a bad hit to the Blue Jackets, Markus Nutivaara. Dealing the Stanley Cup favorites what could be a death blow.

Another reason Columbus has taken control is they have been more physical than Tampa Bay. Blue Jackets defenders have punished Lightning offensive players. Columbus has been dominant on the forecheck knocking the Lightning off their game.

Sergei Bobrovsky has been unreal. After a shaky start to game one. Bobrovsky has looked like the two time Vezina Trophy winner. Since giving up 3 game one goals, Sergei Bobrovsky has stopped 40 of 41 shots. Proving his elite status and when he is on Bob is a game-changer.

What has set Columbus apart is they are getting scoring from all over the place. Tampa Bay has had no answers for the speed Columbus has. It has been a full Blue Jackets effort.

The Lightning had the top ranked power play and penalty kill during the regular season. Yet, Columbus is 3 for 6 with a man advantage and are a perfect 5 for 5 on the penalty kill.

The Lightning are in trouble leading head coach Jon Cooper to say his team is in “a five-alarm fire.”