The Best Players for the Columbus Blue Jackets Need to be Better

Nov 6, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) moves the puck against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) moves the puck against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /
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This team really needs its experienced players to lead the way. For as good as their younger players are, they’re still wildly inexperienced and need to be led by example.

That did not happen last night. The first goal for the Panthers was fluky, so we can’t really start there. The Jackets actually do a nice job breaking up an odd-man rush here, but Ryan Lomberg just makes a nice play, catching an over-extended Elvis Merzlikins off of his mark and banking in a greasy goal. The issues I’m talking about really started to show up on the second Florida goal:

Damon Severson does a nice job winning the puck, then makes the right play with a pass up the weak side to Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau somehow miffs receiving the pass here, leading to a turnover, where the Panthers quickly strike. Pay attention to how the Jackets recover defensively … or, should I say, how they don’t recover defensively. What is Boone Jenner guarding against here? All he does is act as a screen for his own goaltender. And don’t even get me started on the effort by Jack Roslovic, whose cover scores the easiest goal of his NHL career.

That’s the top line and top defense pair for the Blue Jackets, showing zero care as the team goes down 2-0. But hold on, they weren’t finished yet! Look at the effort on this play … again, lots of standing around up high (uh, Johnny? … Paging a Mr. Gaudreau…), coupled with Jenner chasing the puck. Then, Zach Werenski boxes himself out of the play, leaving Severson to defend a 2-on-1 net-front, which goes about as well as one would expect:

This is just not good enough from a group that should be leading the charge here. In my opinion, it’s no secret why this team lost last night. They were being carried heavily by their middle two lines; neither of which were on the ice when the minutes were meaningful at the end of the game or overtime. When your best players, the guys who play in those situations, aren’t your best players on a given night, you will not win many hockey games.

Everyone was quick to pin the blame for last night’s loss on Ivan Provorov for his ugly turnover late; but the fact of the matter is, this game wouldn’t have even been in a close situation if the top guns for the Blue Jackets had actually showed up and played. The young players were flying and gave this team a spark for most of the night. Spencer Martin stood on his head, making 35 straight saves. He deserved better.

Nov 6, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Spencer Martin (30) makes a save against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2023; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Spencer Martin (30) makes a save against the Florida Panthers during the second period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

At the very least, I think it’s time for Pascal Vincent to split up this top line. It’s not working right now, for anyone except Boone Jenner. He has to find a way to spark Gaudreau, and he has to find a way to get Werenski to play more engaged hockey. These are the guys who should be leading the way. If Erik Gudbranson is your best player on many given nights (he has been lately); you have some things to work on.

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