Previewing the Metro Division ahead of the 2021-22 NHL regular season. Today's entry: The Columbus Blue Jackets
2021 record and finish: 18-26-12, 7th in the Central Division. Missed playoffs.
Coach: Brad Larsen
Notable additions: Jakub Voracek, Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean, Sean Kuraly
Notable departures: Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Michael Del Zotto, Riley Nash, Adam Clendening
Schedule against the Capitals:
@ Columbus, 7 p.m., Fri. Nov. 12
@ Washington, 7 p.m., Sat. Dec. 4
@ Columbus, 7 p.m., Thurs. March 17
@ Washington, 7 p.m., Thurs. April 28
Outlook: The Blue Jackets had one of the more interesting offseasons in the NHL, swapping out parts all across the roster as players moved in and out and big contracts were handed out to keep current players in town. But the end result will likely be the same, as they’re set to finish at the bottom of the Metro Division once again despite re-arranging their deck chairs. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean what they did this offseason was wrong or somehow bad.
They re-signed defenseman Zach Werenski to a six-year contract extension to keep him in Columbus — a problem with talented players in the past — for the foreseeable future. They were able to get Patrik Laine onboard for another season with a one-year deal as well, which should give them some scoring spunk in the lineup.
There’s a handful of decisions to be made with so many new faces, which should keep the Blue Jackets on everyone’s radar for a few months to start the season.
The Blue Jackets are in full rebuild mode, which means they shouldn’t be expected to compete in the division this season. But they added a bevy of draft choices in 2021 and there’s no reason for them to stop that process during the 2021-22 regular season. Expect them to be sellers come the deadline, and aggressive ones at that, as the rebuild rolls on.
Biggest question: As with any rebuilding team, it’s who settles into a role to stay?
The team just acquired Voracek, who struggled in his last two seasons as a Flyer. Now 32, Voracek will look for a resurgence with the organization that drafted him. Are they able to return him to form on a line with Laine? Or have the better days of his career passed him by?
Outside of Werenski, there aren’t many franchise-building pieces on the Jackets that anyone can say for sure will be around in a few seasons. Yes, Boone Jenner has five years left and Kuraly has four, but those aren’t players you build your team around at the top.
Both goaltenders are on one-year deals. Max Domi is on a one-year deal. Laine is on a one-year deal. Voracek is 32. Gustav Nyquist is 32. What do they do with them and if they move them, to what team?
There’s a lot of questions to be answered in Columbus this season and don’t expect them to shy away from making any big-time moves.
Expectations: It doesn’t appear anyone in Columbus holds any real thoughts of the Blue Jackets hoisting the Stanley Cup next June. But now, all attention in Columbus is on the future.
Expect the Blue Jackets to hold up the bottom of the Metro Division for another year, but don’t expect them to just sit quietly and take the punishment they’re set to take so easily. They’ve got two first-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, but just six picks in the final six rounds. Expect them to add to that in some way shape or form as the season moves along.
Columbus is at the “fun’ part of the rebuild now, where it’s time to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. Draft picks will be acquired (to go along with their three first-round picks from the 2021 draft) as this team slowly revamps itself to contend in a few years.
Don’t expect anything wild this season in Columbus, but if you want to keep an eye out for a future winner of the division, this might be the team to keep an eye on.