Blue Jackets 2021 Season Recap

Blue Jackets 2021 Season Recap

Ryan Knuppel
3 years ago
4 min read

While it was a year unlike any other in the NHL, it was certainly a season to forget for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Saturday's game against the Red Wings will determine who finishes in last-place in the Central Division, with Columbus needing a regulation win to avoid at least a tie at the bottom.

When looking at a 17-26-12 season and the third-worst goal differential of -51, it’s easy to only point out the negatives in a season gone awry. However, there were signs of encouragement that the 2020-21 season brought the Blue Jackets too.

Here is a season recap for the Blue Jackets; the good, the bad, and what’s next.

The Good

The biggest moment of the season happened on January 23rd, when the Blue Jackets shipped franchise center Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third round pick to the Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. This trade has hardly been fruitful when it comes to team success, and has looked bad at times with Laine getting into confrontations with the coaching staff. However, there is a lot more positive than negative to draw from the deal.

Maybe the best part of the deal came not from Laine, but from Roslovic. The 24-year old has 33 points in 47 games, and certainly looks the part of a top-line center going forward. As for Laine, the sniper had a down year by his standards with just 10 goals and nine assists in 44 games, but the 23-year old will very likely be extended and have a couple more prime opportunities to bounce back in Columbus.

Other than that, right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand had another very solid season, finishing with a team-high 17 goals, 25 assists, and 42 points. Right wing Cam Atkinson was also a steady presence in the lineup, registering 14 goals and 19 assists.

Finally, Elvis Merzlikins has been able to prove that he is capable of being the number one guy going forward. While being half of a two-man tandem in net, the 27-year old is 8-12-5, but carries a 2.77 GAA and .916 save percentage.

The Bad

As a whole, a season spent largely in the cellar has more bad than good. Besides Bjorkstrand and Roslovic, most of the other players fell below their offensive expectations, with Laine being the face of that. As a result, the Jackets average the third-fewest goals in hockey per game with 2.35, put up just under 29 shots, and have the league’s fifth-worst power play at 15.4 percent.

Defensively, things aren’t a whole lot better. A season-ending hernia for Zach Werenski and a young blueline unable to shoulder the load is a reason why Columbus is just 24th with 3.27 goals allowed on over 32 shots. Their penalty kill was also in the bottom half of the league at 79.5 percent.

One area that really hurt the Blue Jackets this season was a miscalculation on a few of their offseason acquisitions. While Max Domi was tasked with being a top-six forward for much of the season, the former Canadien managed 23 points in 53 games and had 73 penalty minutes, 45 more than the next highest player Nick Foligno (who was traded at the deadline). Veteran Mikko Koivu was also supposed to provide stability down the middle, but retired after playing just two games for the team.

Then in net, while Merzlikins was solid, Joonas Korpisalo was not. The 26-year old was slated to be Columbus’ primary goaltender of the future, but stumbled to a 9-13-7 record with a 3.30 GAA and .894 save percentage. With both of those goalies under contract for just one more season, Korpisalo will be looking at a make-or-break year in 2021-22.

What’s next?

First, Saturday’s game against Detroit will all but certainly be John Tortorella’s final game behind the bench for Columbus. Tortorella managed to guide the Jackets to the playoffs in four of his six seasons as head coach, but with his contract up and the season they just had, expect the coaching search to start very soon.

While they won’t be big spenders in free agency, the Jackets do have some money freeing up. Center Brandon Dubinsky, an I.R. staple the last two years, is off the books after this season, as is Mikhail Grigorenko. The cap space should allow Columbus to create new contracts for upcoming restricted free agents like Laine and Alexandre Texier.

Then there’s the draft. Not only will the Blue Jackets be given a nice pick high in the first round, they also own the Maple Leafs’ and Lightning’s first round picks this year after dealing Foligno and David Savard at the deadline. Armed with three first round picks, Columbus has a chance to add some serious talent to the pipeline and help bring the franchise back to the postseason once again.

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