After a successful 2013-14 season that saw them get to their second postseason appearance in team history, the Columbus Blue Jackets felt confident that they could make it to back-to-back playoffs for the first time and maybe even win their first postseason series. Unfortunately it looks like the 2014-15 season will not go according to plan. After a slow start, injuries have kept them from finding a rhythm and it will ultimately be the reason they fail to get to the playoffs this year.
The team haa been one of the more beat up teams this season, but they have done a good job of trying to remain in contention for as long as possible. The most important player on the team is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but he has been beat up this season. At the beginning of this month, Bobrovsky returned from a groin injury. This was the second time this season that the goalie had been sidelined with an injury. He broke his hand towards the beginning of the season and just hasn’t looked right since.
As of right now, the Blue Jackets are in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and there doesn’t appear much of a chance that the can make it into the playoffs. They are currently 18 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot, but would have to pass four other teams. They only won two of their past eight games and their last win came in a shootout against the one team that’s beneath them in the standings.
While Bobrovsky was out, Curtis McElhinney did the best he could, but ultimately the level of competition the Blue Jackets faced was too great. Out of his past five games, four of them were against playoff caliber teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens twice. The other game was a bad loss against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday where they were shutout. The Blue Jackets are 2-7-1 over their past 10 games and that has caused them to fall a couple spots int he standings.
Columbus is building towards the future as they traded for forward David Clarkson from the Toronto Maple Leafs. To get Clarkson, they gave up forward Nathan Horton in what is purely a salary dump. Horton’s career appears to be over as he has been dealing with back injuries this season.
At the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets made a couple of moves to help build for the future. They traded away two of their defensemen in Jordan Leopold to the Minnesota Wild and James Wisniewski to the Anaheim Ducks. In return the Blue Jackets got two draft picks and a handful of players and prospects in Rene Bourque, William Karlsson and Justin Falk. While Bourque is a rental player, Karlsson and Falk are young and could be a factor in the coming years.
Going forward the Blue Jackets have to feel pretty good about what they have. They have a good young team and have key players like Bobrovsky and forwards Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen under control for the next couple of years. They need some work in building up their defense as that appears to be the weakest position on the team. If their team can stay healthy, there is no reason to think that the teams wouldn’t be in contention next season.
The Blue Jackets will look to improve their team in the offseason if they want to get back to the postseason. They play in a tough conference given the number of teams vying for only a couple of spots. Columbus will need some better luck on the injury front if they are going to contend in the future. One way they can do that is by shipping out some of the parts from this team for either financial flexibility or draft picks. The Blue Jackets appear to be a team on the verge of being a competitor and next season will be crucial.