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How Much Should We Worry About the Preseason?

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Do flat performances matter that much?

NHL: Preseason-Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets had won exactly one game before last night in this preseason, a now 2-4 stretch that includes absolute drubbings at the hands of St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Expectations are high this season for the Blue Jackets, so should this uneven of a preseason (so far) worry the Columbus faithful?*

First, let’s look at how previous preseasons have gone: generally well! The Blue Jackets have won at least half of their preseason games since the lockout and have two more games against Pittsburgh (Friday) and Saturday (Chicago). If they win those, they’ll hit that four-win benchmark.

Here’s how Columbus has fared in the preseason since the lockout:

CBJ Preseason History (Post-Lockout)

YEAR GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
YEAR GP W L OTL PTS ROW SOW SOL HOME ROAD GF GA DIFF L10 STRK
2017-18 8 4 3 1 9 3 1 0 1-3-0 3-0-1 25 24 +1 4-3-1 W3
2016-17 8 4 4 0 8 3 1 0 1-3-0 3-1-0 18 25 -7 4-4-0 W1
2015-16 8 5 2 1 11 5 0 1 2-1-1 3-1-0 29 21 +8 5-2-1 W4
2014-15 8 7 1 0 14 7 0 0 4-0-0 3-1-0 28 17 +11 7-1-0 W3
2013-14 8 4 3 1 9 4 0 1 1-2-1 3-1-0 21 22 -1 4-3-1 L3

Remember that 7-1-0 preseason in 2014-15? Preseason champions. Let’s just see how the regular season went and…yep, finished fifth in the division and missed the playoffs. After a pedestrian start to the preseason last year, the Blue Jackets won their last three and went 9-4 to start the regular season. You can get an idea of how things may shake out in the preseason, but it’s nothing you’d want to bet the house on.

Also, when we talk about those rough losses, you have to also take a gander at those rosters. Imagine putting this defense up against Sidney Crosby:

The CBJ used the first bunch of preseason games to get some close-up looks at a wide swath of players in the system, which is laudable and may speak to the crop of talent (at forward, at least) throughout the organization. We’ve all been waiting to see Vitaly Abramov in game action. Michael Prapavessis has been somewhat of a revelation. Liam Foudy scored a goal he’ll remember for a long time. These games don’t count, so why not run some kids out there and see what you got? Don’t forget about the exhaustion factor. John Tortorella’s legendarily tough skating and conditioning tests to kick off training camp had most of the team grousing about dead legs and sore lungs.

Check out the standings for the rest of the league and see who’s at the bottom of their respective divisions. You think Washington’s that worried about their chances this year after going winless in their first four games? How about Anaheim? Or Otta—OK, never mind. You get the idea.

It’s easy to worry, though, and yeah, there are legitimate concerns. There have been few standout performances (save for Oliver Bjorkstrand and Joonas Korpisalo last night) and the special teams hadn’t set the world on fire before last night (and we’d hope so, putting the top PP up against Buffalo). The Jackets swapping the offensive and defensive coaches for some reason doesn’t exactly reek of confidence and there have been some puzzling roster decisions. Ryan Murray and Seth Jones’s injuries may linger for a while over a defensive corps that already looks thin at the bottom. Nobody’s saying everything is rosy, but getting shellacked a few times when the games don’t matter isn’t something to worry about in itself.

It’s preseason. Try to have some fun. We get to watch at least 82 hockey games starting next week, and hopefully more in the postseason. We’ll find plenty of reasons to panic.

*if Seth Jones is seriously injured, ignore the other 500 words. Yes, panic.