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Cannon Blasts: A lot of change in three years

That and more of this week’s stories

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

On Saturday, the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrated the three year anniversary of the most memorable moment in franchise history:

This led me to look up the box score from that Game 4, and I was struck by just how dramatic the roster turnover has been since then. Here was the roster, in order of time on ice in that game:

Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with Florida in July 2019)
David Savard (traded to Tampa in April 2021)
Zach Werenski (still on active roster)
Seth Jones (traded to Chicago in July 2021)
Artemi Panarin (signed with New York in July 2019)
Dean Kukan (still on active roster)
Oliver BJORKSTRAND (still on active roster)
Nick Foligno (traded to Toronto in April 2021)
Pierre-Luc Dubois (traded to Winnipeg in January 2021)
Josh Anderson (traded to Montreal in October 2020)
Matt Duchene (signed with Nashville in July 2019)
Boone Jenner (on injured reserve)
Cam Atkinson (traded to Philadelphia in July 2021)
Alexandre Texier (on injured reserve)
Riley Nash (traded to Toronto in April 2021)
Ryan Dzingel (signed with Carolina in July 2019)
Brandon Dubinsky (didn’t play after that postseason; officially retired in 2021)
Scott Harrington (currently assigned to the Cleveland Monsters)
Adam Clendening (signed with Philadelphia in July 2021)
Joonas Korpisalo (on injured reserve)

So, when the Jackets played on Saturday night, just two players from that Tampa game (Werenski and BJORKSTRAND) were dressed. Jenner, Texier, and Korpisalo are on IR, Kukan was healthy scratched, and Harrington was in the minors. Those last three are UFAs this summer, so going into next season, just four members of that lineup will remain.

That’s kind of crazy, right? It’s a really dramatic turnover of the roster, especially for one that was playing well. Of course, several of the most important players already had their eyes on other destinations before the season even started. Other key contributors, like Foligno and Savard, could have left in free agency last summer regardless, as they entered the twilight of their careers.

For comparison, Tampa still has 11 players from that Game 4 roster. It’s amusing to look back at the team’s infamous apology tweet from that night, to see the replies that are insistent that the team could not win under Jon Cooper, or that it was time to blow up the core. As it turns out, the head coach and the core of the team would win the next two championships. There were changes made to the depth lines, with players like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman adding depth scoring and physicality on Yanni Gourde’s line. This allowed them to flip the script on the Jackets in their rematch in the 2020 playoffs.

Back to the Jackets, I don’t bring up this topic to make us feel bad. This turnover isn’t necessarily all good or all bad, it just IS. In the short term, they weathered the free agent departures and made it back to the playoffs in 2020 despite many injuries. Forced trades of Anderson and Dubois after that season proved too much to overcome, and the Jones trade made a full-on rebuild official.

The silver lining is that the worst appears to be over. With another extremely young roster, the Jackets have a new core to build around. Werenski, BJORKSTRAND, and Elvis Merzlikins provide key players at all three positions who are signed long term. Sean Kuraly and Boone Jenner are also under contract three years from now (spring of 2025). Others will still be under team control, including Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Yegor Chinakhov, and Adam Boqvist. The final critical piece would be if Patrik Laine signs a long term extension this summer.

The next time this group makes the playoffs, it’s more likely the key players will stick around to build off that success.

The week that was

The Cannon Cast discussed the arrival of Kent Johnson and recapped the playoff races.

The Jackets beat the Habs in Johnson’s debut, but it was his Michigan teammate Blankenburg that stood out.

How would you rate all of the rookies to debut for Columbus this season?

Prior to losing in Los Angeles, the playoff dreams were officially extinguished.

In non-NHL hockey news, Jeff Marek broke the news that has long been rumored, that the PWHPA is launching their own league. This will provide two women’s professional hockey leagues in North America next season, each with pledges of new investors and livable wages for players.

On deck

The California trip wraps in San Jose on Tuesday night, then the Jackets host the Senators on Friday night, and the Oilers on Sunday afternoon.

Ohio Sports Update

The Guardians and Reds both got swept. Woops.

Ohio State paid tribute to Dwayne Haskins at their spring game:

Play me out

This tweet reminded me that I almost forgot my annual tradition of listening to the original concept album every year on Easter:

I say it’s “Heaven on their Minds” or “This Jesus Must Die” but there isn’t a wrong answer here.