This season is Sergei Bobrovsky‘s last go around with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Anyone holding out hope that the all-star goaltender re-signs with the organization should accept the likelihood that he’ll be elsewhere next season. All arrows point to the end of an era for the CBJ netminder.
Sergei Bobrovsky has had a pretty phenomenal run with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s call a spade a spade. I write that regardless of how this season plays out.
However, I also write that with a gigantic asterisk that points to his playoff performance. Either way, I don’t see a way that Bobrovsky re-signs with the CBJ after this year and the reasons why are plenty and hard to argue.
1. Playoff Performance
People can defend him all they want, but Bob’s sample size in net during the playoffs overrides any anecdotal arguments. He simply has fallen apart in the postseason. Blame it on mental clarity, confidence, you name it.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times more, regular season wins are nice but playoff victories are what matter. If you’re content with regular season success, that is a losing attitude. CBJ fans like any want Stanley Cups and so do the players.
Without going into a 1,000 word essay on Bob’s playoff collapse (because I already have, link below), I’ll summarize. In 18 starts with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bob hasn’t held the opponent to less than 3 goals once. Not once. Further, his save percentages and goals allowed slump dramatically from his regular season numbers.
This is not a single series issue, which you could find fault in a million places. For those who are still fighting for our favorite Russian goalie’s reputation. If you want to keep going back, Bob bombed in his playoff stint with the Flyers too. He posted even worse save percentages (.848) and goals against average (4.04) than he has in Columbus.
It’s safe to say, any argument there is shot. Bob underperforms in the playoffs and that’s that.
2. Bob Wants Too Many Rubles
Sergei is an excellent goaltender. I should reiterate he has accomplished as the Columbus Blue Jackets ringleader over the past few seasons. The problem is, Bob wants to be paid like his regular season performance when the playoffs are where contracts balloon.
Stated on multiple occasions throughout training camp, Bob’s agent and CBJ brass are worlds apart on numbers. It makes sense though. Bob wants to be paid like Carey Price, or somewhere in that $9M-$10M a year range. He wants to be paid like a two-time Vezina winner, which is fair, but it ignores the whole picture.
Stack on top of this that Bob is 30 now. There are plenty of great miles left in a 30-year old goaltender, but if Sergei is wanting more than 3 or 4 years, he could start to inch past his prime. Regardless of Price’s play last year, his outrageous contract could serve as a “what not to to do” in the NHL for years to come.
I’m not on Jarmo’s speed dial, chatting player deals on the daily but I imagine they’d rather pocket all that extra coin and spend it on the likes of future deals, i.e. Werenski, Dubois, etc. Putting up $10M on a goalkeeper is a lot of eggs in one basket. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Elvis Waits
Any Columbus Blue Jackets fan with a pulse and internet access knows about the growing legend of Elvis Merzlikins. The thing is, Elvis is a real person, a goaltender at that – and he’s good. To spare myself from listing all of the reasons why “Merz” could be the next great CBJ netminder, I’ll link our Season Expectations writeup featuring lengthy praise of the Latvian.
I, nor my writing compatriots think Korpisalo is the answer, but Elvis has done enough on a couple different stages to deter the CBJ front office from emptying the bank account on Bob. There’s also an outside chance they could move “Korpi”, let Bob walk and find another to go with Elvis.
The options here are plenty but it would be amateur to think that the Jackets don’t see a future in Merzlikins. Either way, it’s not worth mortgaging the franchise’s newfound depth on a player who can’t seal the deal when it matters most.
4. Sour Grapes
I’ll start off by saying I’d love to be wrong here, but…
Even if Bob dominates the 2019 playoffs, he’ll likely have a sour taste in his mouth that the front office strung him along with lowball offers until he finally put out when it counts. There are a lot of moving pieces here and plenty of speculation but it makes sense.
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I understand Bob’s frustration because he’s given his blood, sweat and tears to the Blue Jackets. The problem is, none of those equate to championships and it’s not Jarmo’s job to protect players’ feelings.
To put it more simply, even if Bob plays outstanding in this year’s playoffs, he’ll have already moved on in his mind. He showed noticeable animosity in his preseason presser and it’s no secret the Jackets aren’t going to pay him what another team might.
Summing it Up
No one should diminish what Sergei has done for the Columbus Blue Jackets. After years of subpar play, the organization is cultivating a proper winning culture and he’s greatly responsible for that. His regular season play is also the primary reason why the Jackets have made the playoffs to begin with, so there’s that as well.
As an admitted critic of his postseason struggles, I’d love nothing more than to watch ol’ #72 go on a Stanley Cup bender and stomp everything in his path. I have nothing but appreciate for Bobrovsky and what he’s done in Columbus.
Unfortunately though, all good things must come to an end. At this point, it’s up to Bob if he goes out with a bang, or a fizzle.