New year, new me.
We’ve all heard it. Many of us have said it. Some of us have even tried it. The Columbus Blue Jackets, currently sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division, don’t need big, sweeping resolutions to reinvent themselves into a 2019 playoff contender. And much like me eventually learning Spanish, some resolutions have been on the to-do list for awhile and it’s finally time to make a move.
Get more than one Blue Jacket to the All-Star Game
Done! Making progress already!
Fix the power play
The power play hasn’t been “good” since 2014-15, when it converted on 21.72 percent of its advantages. It was slightly above average in 2016-17 and has gone downhill ever since, only slightly better than dead-last Philadelphia right now. Columbus will enter tomorrow night going 0-20 in last eight games on the power play (and 1-35 in the last 12 games), which is frankly kind of impressive. Given all the offensive talent on this roster, how can you be this bad with an extra player on the ice? I don’t have the answers, but I’m not paid six or seven figures to hash it out. Teams aren’t afraid to commit penalties against the Blue Jackets. Sometimes your resolutions are glaring and obvious. That’s the biggest on-ice issue to fix for the CBJ.
Get better at home
Columbus improved to 11-8-2 at home on Monday night thanks to three goals in the final two minutes. That’s a winning record, sure, but compare that to their record away from Nationwide Arena: 12-5-1. Only three teams have more road wins in the entire NHL. Whether it’s simply a mindset of playing in an unfamiliar place or some kind of affinity for hotel linens, figuring out how to replicate that kind of away success on home ice would go a long way to winning the division. They’re 4-3-1 at Nationwide since December 8, and several of those wins were against bottom feeders (Ottawa, Los Angeles, New Jersey). We know this team can do better in front of its fans.
Keep up the strong play in the Metropolitan Division
Resolutions don’t always have to be about change; sometimes you can just keep up the good work. The Blue Jackets are 8-4-1 against Metro teams this season, part of a 15-8-1 marker against the Eastern Conference. Columbus finds itself three points ahead of the fourth-place New York Islanders (who have a game in hand) but only two behind division-leading Washington (who also has a game in hand). Only against the Central does Columbus fare better (5-1-0), and the club will have ample opportunity to flex on their division mates with four of their next seven games coming against Metro teams, beginning tomorrow at Carolina.
Get better play from Joonas Korpisalo
The Blue Jackets have the luxury of starting one of the best goaltenders in the world most nights, but they haven’t been so fortunate this season when it comes to playing their backup. Joonas Korpisalo has gone 2-2-2 in his last nine appearances, posting a paltry .874 save percentage. He’s posted two quality starts and -8.34 goals saved above average. This year was supposed to see a reduced workload for Bob as they organization got a better look at Korpisalo…that look hasn’t been so pleasant. Korpisalo stopped 19 of 22 in a road win against the Rangers last week, and perhaps he can build on that for 2019. He hasn’t done better than a .900 save percentage in a start since November 15, though, and the organization will need more from him down the stretch—especially if Bob gets dealt at or before the trade deadline.
Figure out what to do about Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin
Sometimes resolutions are made for you. Maybe it’s a doctor telling you to walk more, or a child pleading with you to stop smoking, or two Russian superstars who’ve made it clear they aren’t on board with your long-term plans for them. All things considered, this year has gone remarkably well given the possible distraction when the best forward and goalie come into camp saying they’ll be gone at the end of the year. But the trade deadline gets closer every day, and though relations haven’t been outwardly acrimonious between team and agents, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Blue Jackets hang on to both players through a playoff run. The team is winning and getting production from Panarin and Bob; this is what we all figured would happen. So what now?
Win a playoff series
Obviously winning more than would would be preferable but it sure would be great to advance for the first time!
What’s your 2019 resolution for the Blue Jackets?