The Blue Jackets dropped their seventh game in a row on Thursday night, this time a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes. They aren’t exactly playing inspiring hockey right now, with results not coming at all. But there is a lot of talent here, and assuming they don’t make any major moves, there are three things that could help turn the Blue Jacket season around.
Of course, there are way more than three things that this team needs to figure out right now. After seven losses in a row, it’s really hard to glean positivity about this team at all. They’re struggling, flat out, and if it weren’t for their line of Dmitri Voronkov, Adam Fantilli, and Kirill Marchenko, a lot of these games weren’t even close. They’ve been the lone, consistent bright spot amongst the skaters (though I have to give a nod to Erik Gudbranson, who has played well above the mean most nights).
The strange thing about this team is that, even with all of this skill, they’re struggling to score goals. They’re getting a lot of saves from both of their goaltenders, and have had a chance to win on most nights. But the transition game is a mess, and it’s led to stunted rush attacks. Combine this with their inability to play in-zone offense consistently (outside of that young line mentioned above). The result? This team has come out and averaged just 2.7 goals per game.
Their best players have to step up…
This is probably the biggest key to unlocking this team’s potential. We’re 17 games into the season, and their two most highly paid forwards – Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine – have just 3 goals and 9 points. Combined. This is a team whose core is extremely young. These two guys make a combined $18,450,000 against the cap, on a team that has only spent $37,000,000 or so on forwards (with Jack Roslovic healthy).
That’s really close to 50% of your dollars, accounting for roughly 0.6% of your team’s goals on the season. Now, Laine gets a partial pass here because of time missed due to injury. But what in the world is going on with Gaudreau? He looks completely disinterested at times, and has been fighting the puck since the very first faceoff of the season. Things have gotten so bad, that both of them were benched at the end of last night’s loss to the Coyotes. And you know what, good. They deserved it. They were not good enough.
But this leads us to the first, and most crucial thing that needs to happen for this team to compete: figure out what is going on with your best players, and get them going. I don’t know if they need a quick in-season vacation. Maybe they’re upset about the system they’re playing in. Or, maybe they’re both hurt. Whatever the case, figure it out, soon, or this streak of losses will be into the double digits in no time.