As of the writing of this article, the Columbus Blue Jackets are only 12 games into the season and already 9 points out of the second wild card spot. There are 70 games left in the season and still a little bit of time to turn things around, but the strength of the Eastern Conference will make it difficult for any team to catch up if they fall too far behind. If this team keeps slipping further away from the playoffs over the next month, it may benefit them to embrace being bad sooner rather than later.
Now by embracing bad I don’t mean selling off any valuable assets. What I mean is not doing too much to right the ship. Why? Because next summer’s draft is the deepest in recent memory. Not only is it deep, but there are two franchise changing centers at the top of the draft and two or three other potential first line centers behind them. For an organization that has never had a franchise center, that could soon change. So how would they get there?
Send Down the Kids
This one is a hard sell because Johnson, Chinakhov, and Sillinger all deserve to be in Columbus. Sending them down not only hurts their pride, but also their pocketbooks. But there is an argument to be made that you should keep your kids away from train wrecks. If this team continues to get walloped night after night, at some point you have to make sure it is not doing your prospects more harm than good.
Sending the prospects to Cleveland could also help them gain confidence back and remind them how to be dominant in the game of hockey. Imagine a Monsters top six that consists of Johnson, Sillinger, Chinakhov, and Marchenko. You can also play Johnson at center and get him acclimated to the position.
Keep the Coaching Staff
Even if you come to the realization that Larsen isn’t the guy for the job, maybe you keep him around just to make sure the team doesn’t rattle off a ten game win streak in February. Sometimes a coaching change can knock some sense into a struggling team, no matter if it was the right move or not. The front office also gets to save face this way, instead of firing their guy halfway through the season.
It is likely that Nyquist won’t be a Blue Jacket next season regardless of the outcome of this season. There are question marks surrounding Gavrikov as well. Identify those that aren’t in your long-term plans and open up for business. Let teams know that the players are available and that you are willing to deal. The extra draft picks are nice, but the point is to make the team worse in the short-term.
For years this franchise has missed out on elite players in the draft. They have lost the lottery, passed up future hall of famers, and embarked on meaningless late season win streaks that ruin their draft position. Frankly, I’m tired of it. If you are bad, be bad. This is the year to do it. It wouldn’t be fun, but a top line center for the next 15 years would be worth it.
That being said, I doubt the Blue Jackets are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure a lottery pick if the season continues to go off the rails. Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t the type to tank and it would be a hard sell to your new superstar winger. Fans don’t like to tank either, especially season ticket holders. But all of that won’t keep some of us from dreaming of a Bedard or Fantilli nameplate on the back of a Blue Jackets sweater.