More Of The Same Next Season?
The Blue Jackets have typically provided fans nuggets of optimism while routinely missing out on the playoffs. Is there any hope for a more competitive 2016-2017 season?
Last month Seeds detailed the many things he hopes for as a Blue Jackets fan. The team has gone on yet another meaningless season run, though they have stumbled a bit within the last couple weeks. The playoffs are, of course, not even mathematically possible anymore.
By my amateur count, there have been three springs where hockey was played in Nationwide Arena with playoff implications. The Jackets made the playoffs in two of those three years. This is the 12th spring where the team was simply playing out the last games laid before them by the schedulers.
In more recent memory, the team has at least provided some reason for optimism. We remember the numbers of those last season surges - 19-5-5, 15-1-1. Heck, even in the final season with Rick Nash the team turned it around after Todd Richards took over as head coach. Last season, the team played well with virtually the whole team healthy.
What are fans hanging their hats on as they look to next season?
While the Jackets are in a fierce battle for top draft lottery odds, the percentages no longer are in their favor. Even finishing 30th only gives them a 20% chance of picking first overall. Still, some hope the losses come just for a chance to pick one of The Big Three in the draft.
The team isn't playing particularly well after its post-All Star Game surge. Oliver Bjorkstrand is getting a look right now. Joonas Korpisalo is back with the big club after an injury to Curtis McElhinney.
Even as we looked to next year, it was hard to come up with realistic rosters that would seem destined for a playoff appearance. Much can change, of course, but the front office is not going to have as much flexibility this offseason to add pieces unless they can somehow find a trade partner to take on Fedor Tyutin or Scott Hartnell. That was something they could not find at the trade deadline.
For now, it appears the roster will largely be the same at the start of next season. William Karlsson and Seth Jones still need contract extensions. If it is mostly the same roster, perhaps with a couple new young faces, is the team really any better positioned to be competitive in the Eastern Conference?
This core has been together for a few years now but they haven't shown the ability to consistently compete at a high level for a full season. Is John Tortorella's training camp of doom going to provide what is required to get to the playoffs?
For a franchise that comes up with nuggets of optimism - which usually fall short, by the way - I'm struggling to be excited about next season. In my opinion, the team is headed to another bottom five finish and we'll do this all over again next spring.
To steal from Seeds - I hope I'm wrong about that.
It has been a long last few months for Blue Jackets fans. I fear it could be another long season next year as well.