No team in the NHL is hotter than the Columbus Blue Jackets in the new year. They are 8-2-0 over their past 10 games, which includes three shutouts and a pair of wins against the Boston Bruins. The team has now crept its way into the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, jumping ahead of the likes of Philadelphia, Carolina and Toronto.
Even more impressive is that the Blue Jackets have made this run while missing many of their best players: starting goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, top scorer Cam Atkinson and fellow forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, and Alexandre Texier and defensemen Ryan Murray and Dean Kukan. With those players on their way back to health — Atkinson made his return on Thursday — one would think that the Blue Jackets have a chance to not only sustain their success, but possibly even improve upon it.
Yet, the question then becomes whether the team can really buy in to this season after the events of 2018-19. Last year, the Blue Jackets went all-in, trading away Anthony Duclair, two top forward prospects, a first-round pick, two second-round picks and three additional picks to load up with rentals Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. The team also opted not to move its own impending free agents in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Although Columbus stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning with a first-round sweep, the first playoff series win in franchise history, it fell in the second round and lost each of those six free agents in the offseason. If the Blue Jackets are again in a position only to battle for a wild-card spot down the stretch, can the team risk another season of lost prospects and draft capital? Only time will tell how long the team can continue this dominant stretch and what position it may be in by late next month, but another active trade deadline would be a difficult hit to the team’s pipeline.
Here are some more Blue Jackets notes...
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