The NHL released its National TV schedule yesterday, which will feature the Columbus Blue Jackets a total of 10 times throughout the season. This includes five home games along with five on the road:
Tuesday, November 15, 7:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus vs. Philadelphia
Wednesday, December 7, 7:30p.m. – TNT – Columbus vs. Buffalo
Tuesday, December 13, 7:00p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus at Florida
Friday, December 23, 8:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus at Chicago
Tuesday, December 27, 7:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus vs. Buffalo
Thursday, January 5, 7:00p.m. – ESPN – Columbus vs. Washington
Monday, January 23, 9:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus at Calgary
Wednesday, January 25, 9:30p.m. – TNT – Columbus at Edmonton
Tuesday, February 14, 7:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus vs. New Jersey
Tuesday, February 28, 7:30p.m. – ESPN+/Hulu – Columbus at Buffalo
Notably, the Blue Jackets will face their most hated rivals, the Buffalo Sabres, three times on National TV. Wait a minute… I’m being told these two teams have played each other just 38 times in 22 years, with the Blue Jackets holding a decisive 23-12-1-2 record.
I get the league wanting to expand its audience and include lesser known teams. This is honestly a refreshing take from the NBC approach of showing us all 82 Pittsburgh Penguins games, or every original six matchup in existence. Really, I appreciate seeing the Blue Jackets and even a team like the Sabres being featured more regularly. But against each other, every time? This seems like an odd decision for games to promote.
While the Blue Jackets and Sabres have had their share of good games over the years, I don’t really see either team in contention for a playoff spot this year. They’re only rivals in that, geographically they aren’t that far apart … but, they haven’t really had any meaningful games against each other over the years to create any kind of real rivalry. When the Sabres were good, the Blue Jackets were terrible. When the Blue Jackets were good, the Sabres were terrible. It just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps more importantly, neither of the games the Blue Jackets will play in Finland – against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche, no less – will be televised nationally. The NHL Global Series games will take place November 4th and 5th (both games at 1:00p.m. Eastern Time); seemingly on local channels. ESPN or its sister networks couldn’t be bothered to promote hockey in the middle of a Friday afternoon?
The one game I think they are smart to promote, is the one on January 23rd against the Flames. That will be Johnny Gaudreau’s first time returning to Calgary since opting to leave in favor of Columbus, and I’m sure the Saddle Dome will have an electric feel to it that night. At least we can all look forward to seeing our club on the big stage for a different reason that night.
In the end, it’s great to see the team on National TV more often, I just wish we could get some of the more exciting games on there; such as Carolina or the NY Rangers. Folks in Columbus will be able to watch most of the rest of the action on Bally Sports Ohio. Those out of market can use ESPN+ to follow along with just about every game.