The Blue Jackets went out last summer and added pieces as if they were a team jumping into playoff contention. The problem? They're not even remotely close.
It's hard to even envision this roster being too much better with a high profile coach like you know who. The pieces are coming together, but they aren't all here yet - and the ones that are here, are just not ready for that "playoff" kind of hockey.
For an example: look no further than the Jets. They have all of the components you need to be a contending team: Experience. Depth. Elite goaltending. #1 center. #1 defenseman. Star power. Exciting youth coming in. And, to top it all off, they have a veteran coach who knows what buttons to push. Rick Bowness knows how to work an NHL team through its ups and downs.
After last night's win, they've won 7 games in a row. They have points in 13 straight, winning 11 of them. They're doing this without their best offensive player (Kyle Connor).
So, if you look through the list I wrote above, how close are the Blue Jackets to contending? We can argue that the depth here is actually pretty good. Though, they do have some really important pieces out of the lineup right now.
Elite goaltending? Not even close. They are the epitome of "good" being the enemy of "great" in between the pipes. #1 center? Yeah, I do think they have that, but he's only 19 years old and is still learning the pro game. #1 defenseman? Zach Werenski can be that guy, if he can stay healthy. Star power? That really depends on how you feel about Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. Maybe with better support. That support isn't here right now.
That's a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" from the lineup, isn't it? Then we get to the big one: veteran head coach that can drag the most out of these guys? Well...
Look, I don't think Pascal Vincent is a bad coach. In fact, I think he has the potential to be a great coach in this league. The problem here is, this is a very young team, that would probably benefit more from an experienced, system-oriented coach. I think he's doing a nice job helping the young players develop - we're seeing newfound results from players like Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger, for example.
But defensively, this team is atrocious. They aren't going to win games with the way they play in their own end. They give up way too much, and continue to make the same mistakes, time and time again. And this year, unlike last, we can't blame a lack of depth or youth. They have a pretty expensive, experienced D corps. Which is part of the issue with the direction of this team.
We talked about the mix being wrong, and that is certainly a missed calculation. So it begs the question: what in the heck were they thinking when they went out and gave up quality assets for Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson? These pickups were both mistakes, and the team should have taken a different approach to last summer...on the next page, I have some ideas on what should be their next step.