Blue Jackets Can Find Hope in Losses to Flames

(Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports) /

Thank goodness that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames are in different conferences, otherwise, they’d have to square off more than twice a season. The Western Conference club has decimated its Eastern Conference counterpart in both contests in 2021-22.

Back on Jan. 26, the Flames took it to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, shutting them out 6-0 and simply dominating all facets of the game. It was their third consecutive loss at home at the time, and disheartening, to say the least.

The Blue Jackets went to Calgary to try and avenge that loss on Feb. 16, but fell short again, this time via a 6-2 final. They were outscored 12-2 across two contests against the Flames and were outshot 103-43 in total.

Games don’t get much more lopsided than that, but Blue Jackets can actually take some solace in these two obliterations for a few reasons. This is how Columbus can actually find hope when contemplating these losses to the Flames.

Flames Current Roster is a Peek Into Blue Jackets’ Future

This is the thing that jumped out the most when watching how this well-coached, four-line rolling machine was steamrolling the Blue Jackets: that all of their best players are drafted and homegrown. Big-name free agents aren’t lining up to head to Calgary any more than they’re lining up to play in Columbus.

Yet the Flames have pieced together a roster that should win a playoff round or two once the postseason rolls around.

The core in Calgary is almost entirely drafted. Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, the criminally underrated Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington were all selected by the Flames at some point.

The biggest free agent on their roster is goalie Jacob Markstrom, and there are a few noteworthy skaters who were acquired by trade.

By and large, though, the team that is walloping its way to potentially the top spot in the Pacific Division is a product of good scouting and smart trading. This is the same path to success that the Blue Jackets will be looking to take over the next few seasons.

Some Drafted Building Blocks Already in Place For the Blue Jackets

The Flames are deeper into their rebuild than Columbus is—they are at least consistently making the postseason—but you can see that the blueprint is there for the Blue Jackets.

On Blue Jackets’ current roster, a few of those homegrown core pieces may already be emerging. We wrote about how stellar Cole Sillinger has been this season as an 18-year-old center, and he figures to be a top-six pivot throughout this retooling process.

Blue Jackets
(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Just wait until he starts scoring; we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Sillinger will bring to the ice on a nightly basis as he rounds into his prime.

Oliver Bjorkstrand is in his seventh season with the club but was still taken by the Blue Jackets with the 89th-overall pick in 2013. Boone Jenner is another skater who has tenure in Columbus but is still a homegrown talent.

It’s clear that Yegor Chinakhov is still finding his way at the NHL, but once the pieces start to fall into place beyond that shot, he’s going to be an important wing for Columbus as they continue to add to their offensive attack over time.

And Zach Werenski has turned out to be a steal for the Blue Jackets, even though they snagged him with the eight-overall selection in 2015. They have also seen  Vladislav Gavrikov and Andrew Peeke take noteworthy strides forward this year.

These are building blocks of various importance that are already in place, and they all came to Columbus through the draft.

Even More Drafted Help Is On The Way For Blue Jackets

How fantastic was Kent Johnson for the United States during the Winter Olympics? If Blue Jackets fans weren’t already stoked about the center and his future in Ohio, they ought to be now. It won’t be long before he’s holding down the middle of the ice with Sillinger, and that’s an exciting thought for an organization that has had a hard time holding onto high-end centers over the last decade-plus.

You can’t make much progress towards winning a playoff round or two, much less the Stanley Cup, without strength at center and Johnson and Sillinger project to be a potentially electric one-two punch.

Prospect guru Scott Wheeler recently released his annual organizational prospect rankings (where the Blue Jackets ranked sixth) and had some high praise for Johnson:

"It’s no secret that I’m high on Kent Johnson. If I were to rank the top prospect of all 32 teams into a 1-32 list, he’d be in the conversation for second after Owen Power and almost certainly in the top five."

Very few public analysts watch more prospects than Wheeler does, so when he writes something like that, it carries a tremendous amount of weight. In his eyes, Johnson might be the second-best prospect in all of hockey.

The Blue Jackets might have another staple on the blue line in  Corson Ceulemans. The right-handed defender has the size and skill needed to make an impact at the NHL level, and if everything lands just so for him, he could eventually end up on the top pairing alongside Werenski.

That’s a tough thing to project, however. Columbus hopefully has at least a top-four defenseman on their hands with Ceulemans.

Tack on skilled skaters such as Kirill Marchenko and Dmitri Voronkov and it’s clear that the Blue Jackets’ core could very much end up looking like Calgary’s within the next few seasons. Capable of quickly moving the puck up the ice, pressuring the opposition with a ton of pressure and lots of high-danger chances.

We also shouldn’t forget that the Blue Jackets have two picks in the first round this season, and both could end up being a bit later on in the top-10. If Columbus manages to hit on both of those picks, then their roster could be humming along quite nicely within the next few seasons.

It wasn’t a lot of fun watching the Blue Jackets get caved in by Calgary. But there was a silver lining in that Columbus appears to be headed for that kind of roster construction as they move forward in their rebuild.