Bold Prediction #5: The Blue Jackets will finish fourth in the Metropolitan Division standings. But, they’ll still miss the playoffs…
Our season prediction had the Jackets finishing with a 39-36-7 record (85 points). We may be aiming a little bit high with that, based on the team’s play last season. But I would argue that this team was better on paper last season, than where it finished. Keeping our fingers crossed for better health; if you combine that with the help they’ll receive down the middle and on the blue line, is it hard to see this team improving by nearly 30 points in the standings?
"Team prediction: 39-36-7 (85pts), 270GF, 250GA … I think this would be more than an acceptable season. That’s a 26-point improvement over last year, which may seem dramatic and unachievable…"
A lot of this hinges on the team meshing coming out of that Mike Babcock scandal unscathed – in fact, not just unscathed, they’ll need to be stronger than they were last year. Even more of it may hinge on the play between the pipes. But the talent is there, more than ever, and everything we’re hearing from the players makes it sound like they are out to prove the world wrong. When you take talented guys who are motivated, good things typically happen. With all of that said – playoffs? I dunno…
Look around the Metro and the rest of the Eastern Conference for just one second, and you’ll quickly realize how tough a playoff run is going to be this year. The Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers all have juggernaut teams in our own division. In the Atlantic, you still have the Tampa Bay Lightning hanging around, and I’m not ready to count them out yet. The Boston Bruins had one of the best regular seasons of all-time – even with their roster turnover, they’re very talented and well-coached. The Toronto Maple Leafs are always good in the regular season; and the Florida Panthers made a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.
Then, you have a trio of teams that have also improved this summer, and should be knocking on the door: the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings. And, while the New York Islanders didn’t make any major adjustments this summer, can you count out a veteran team that’s been playing together for so many years?
I’m not ready to say we’re playoff bound just yet. But, I do think the Jackets have a roster that is capable of keeping pace with at least that Islanders team this year. So my bold prediction here is that the Jackets will beat them to the finish line and take fourth in the Metro, behind the Canes, Rangers, and Devils (in some order). But, the Atlantic Division will see five teams make the playoffs this year, leaving us on the outside looking in. Hot take: one of those teams won’t be the Boston Bruins.
Still, an 85-ish point season would certainly be enough of an improvement to restore faith with the direction of this franchise, for a lot of people. And, one year of growth with our younger players all learning together is never a bad thing. Next season, they may very well be on their way to bigger and better things – like maybe legitimately contending for the Stanley Cup.
We will look back at this article at the end of the season to see how we did with our bold predictions this year. Stay tuned to unionandblue.com, as well as our social media channels (links in the upper right-hand corner) for 100% free CBJ coverage all season long!