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A Night of Infamy: Blue Jackets get embarrassed on national television

Will anyone be held accountable for this disaster?

NHL: DEC 07 Sabres at Blue Jackets Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 a day which will live in infamy. December 7, 2022 is a night of infamy for the Columbus Blue Jackets, featuring one of the worst periods of hockey I have ever witnessed, and that’s saying something.

What makes that six goal first period even more painful is that the game was nationally televised on TNT. We don’t get many of these games, and instead of impressing the hockey world, we were a punchline for the intermission panel. They talked about how Buffalo had come into the game winning just four of their last 15, but then Rick Tocchet pointed out they didn’t get to play Columbus in that span. They praised Tage Thompson for his four first period goals (he ended with five; credit to him for a great effort and a great season so far), but acted like it was less impressive since it came against the Blue Jackets.

The crowd included players from over 30 high school teams. I felt like they could have done better. Also in the crowd were the players’ moms. They traveled to Columbus, then Pittsburgh and back, and watched their sons lose by a total of 13-5 in a 27 hour span. Marcus Bjork’s poor mother traveled all the way from Sweden for this crap!

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Jackets did adjust and play better hockey over the final 40 minutes. They actually outscored Buffalo 4-3 in that span, and outshot them 19-16 after being outshot 14-5 in the first. Patrik Laine and Gus Nyquist each recorded two goals. That’s nice, but too little and way too late.

It’s too many goals to go over, so instead I’m going to call out some people:

Brad Larsen

It has to start with the coach. Sure, the team was playing on a consecutive night against a rested team, but that’s not an excuse for starting THAT flat in the first period. By ten minutes in, Buffalo had four goals and the Jackets had just a single shot on goal. It was the same clueless defense. It was the same lack of discipline (more on that in a bit). There were some line shuffles in the second, but why were those necessary? Why can’t Larsen find lines that work then actually stick with them? Does he not have any plan?

I can accept the team being bad, and I can accept that a bad team will lose more than they win. What I cannot abide is a team that loses SO badly. That is non-competitive in so many games. We put up four tonight, and still got more than doubled up! That’s absurd!

Keeping Larsen would help the tanking process, sure, but what I’m concerned about is lasting damage from his system. Will players learn bad habits? Will this sour relationships in the locker room? Losing is toxic. It’s one thing if you have a roster meant to tank, where you’ll move on from most of the players anyway. This team isn’t that. Most of the guys here are counted on for big things next season and beyond. The foundation for future success needs to be laid now.

It’s clear that Brad Larsen is not the coach to lay that foundation. If there were any justice, he would have coached his last game with the Jackets tonight.

Jarmo Kekalainen

Alas, I fear that accountability will be lacking. Jarmo has brought in a number of fun, skilled players...but they’re getting horribly misused by Larsen. Is this the “Lars Bar” Jarmo talked about when Larsen got the job? If so, that bar is so low it’s subterranean.

How does management and ownership justify this season to its customers? Fans paid hard earned money to watch this garbage. I spent time and money to travel across the world to watch the team get wrecked 13-4 in Finland. There’s no entertainment value here.

Last year’s team wasn’t great, but they played hard, scored goals, won games, and were generally fun to watch. This season is a slog.

If he won’t do something about the pisspoor coaching, then his job status must be questioned as well. Someone has to answer for this.

Sean Kuraly

Kuraly finished with 18 PIM tonight, including a game misconduct earned in the third period. He took four penalties in the first period alone, and a couple of those led to Buffalo power play goals. He did more to harm this team than to help them tonight.

Back to Larsen, though, was there any accountability for Kuraly? Was he stapled to the bench? Nope. He still played 8 shifts over the next period and a half. Would Jack Roslovic have gotten the same long leash? Or Cole Sillinger? I think not.

Kuraly also was out-attempted 7-16 in all situations and outscored 0-3. The only player with a worse CF% was Gavin Bayreuther. He only gave up one goal, though (and it was bad. He got totally bullied out of the crease)

Goalies

Joonas Korpisalo has been Korpisolid this year, but he had a brutal start to the game. He was pulled after the third goal, less than eight minutes. He had faced only five shots. Elvis Merzlikins, who had a heavy workload last night in Pittsburgh, had to come in from the bench. He gave up a goal on his first shot faced, and then five more over the next period and a half. Korpi came back in for the third, and pitched a shutout then on just four shots faced.

Up Next

A pair of Western Conference foes come to town this weekend, starting with Johnny Gaudreau’s old team, the Calgary Flames, on Friday. The Los Angeles Kings are here on Sunday. Will the Blue Jackets show up? Will any fans?