The Blue Jackets will play their fourth straight home game to start the 2023-24 season, hosting the Calgary Flames tonight at Nationwide Arena.
The first week of the NHL season has come and gone, with the Jackets holding a disappointing 1-2-0 record through their first three home starts. Losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings book-ended a hard-fought win over the New York Rangers. But through all three games, the only consistency for the Blue Jackets has been inconsistency. Tonight’s game could teach us a lot about the direction this team is heading.
The reason for this prediction? Well, they’ve had several days off to contemplate Monday’s disappointing performance. They will either come out with their rears on fire and take it to the Flames; or they will be flat again. After taking Tuesday off, the team held a very tough practice on Wednesday, with the coaches setting up a one-on-one drill followed by a hard skate at the end of the session. How will they respond to that?
In the media all week, we’ve seen several players already calling themselves out for not being good enough. Big ticket defenseman Damon Severson was benched in the third period of Monday’s game, admitting fault and saying that he needs to learn from it and move on. All of this tells us that the players and coaching staff know that this team needs to be better right away. They are saying the right things, but now it’s time to show us.
I’m honestly curious to see what this team looks like. If they use the tough practice and losses as motivation, we could see the very best this group has to offer. They should be mostly healthy, with Zach Werenski and Elvis Merzlikins both set to return; so there should be no excuses. If they come out flat however, we’ll have major concerns about their mental toughness moving forward. Just four games into the season, they need to prove they’re capable of battling through adversity.
After tonight, the Jackets will head out for their first road game of the season, heading to Minnesota to take on the Wild tomorrow night. A road trip might be just what they need to start gelling as a team. But it all has to start with a solid effort tonight, win or lose.