We’re now just passed the one third mark of the NHL season, and by this point we have an idea where every team lies based on the standings. Unfortunately, a season of much hope has been flushed away as the Blue Jackets currently sit 30th overall in the NHL standings. More unfortunate: the gap between them and the pack is growing further.
After Tuesday night’s 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, the Jackets’ overall record fell to 10-16-2, good for just 22 points. That same evening, two teams scrapping for the bottom of the pile played each other: San Jose beat Arizona by a 3-2 margin, giving the Sharks 25 points on the season, creating a 3-point gap between them and the bottom four teams in the league.
Arizona sits 29th in the NHL with the same amount of points as the Blue Jackets (22) – but they have a game at hand. Columbus sits just ahead of two teams: Chicago (7-16-4, 18 points) and Anaheim (7-20-3, 17 points).
This seems like a long-winded way of saying: the Blue Jackets stink. They’re not only one of just three teams in the league with a sub-40% win percentage, and their goals against differential is third-worst in the league at -35. Chicago (-36) and Anaheim (-60, woof) are the only two teams worse. In fact, Philadelphia is the next closest team to these three – and they’re at -27, a difference of 8 goals.
The Jackets played 82 games last season and had a goal differential of just -38. At this season’s pace, they’re on track to TRIPLE that number. And it’s not just that they’re giving up more goals, they’re scoring significantly fewer on average as well. Last season they averaged 3.20 goals for and 3.66 goals against per game.
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This year? They’ve only scored at a clip of 2.86 per game, while surrendering a ghastly 4.11 against. Put simply, things just aren’t going like they expected them to after signing Johnny Gaudreau this summer. They’re clearly pulling away from the pack as a bottom-three team.
So, what do we do now?
The chance of making a push for a playoff spot left weeks ago, but this season can’t be written off entirely just yet. It’s important for the younger players on this roster to not be taught that losing is okay – we’ve seen that before.
That said, the best possible outcome for this team would be playing out a competitive season, but finishing right where they are in the standings. If the season ended today, they would have the third-best odds of winning the draft lottery and having a chance to select super prospect Connor Bedard.
Even if they don’t win the lottery, they would be picking no lower than 5th overall – and the talent available at this upcoming draft means that they could land a franchise cornerstone type of player. When you look at the existing prospect pool, there are a lot of guys coming that will fill the holes in this team. But they’re missing one more piece: a potential top line center.
Next summer could see them land that piece, and if that’s our reward for suffering through one more season of hell, it will be well worth it.