Step one: get some immediate help. Done.
It was imperative for the Blue Jackets to plug a gaping hole in their lineup. Their fourth line (as currently constituted) has proven that it can – at best – be only sporadically used to spell their top-nine players.
Depth has been a challenge in the wake of their injuries, and as such, it was necessary to claim veteran forward Jussi Jokinen off waivers.
A no-brainer, really. Jarmo Kekalainen said as much once the move was made public. They had to get another player who could be trusted and relied upon to play a chunk of minutes and be available in different situations, namely the power play. Jokinen's track record suggests he can do that, but at age 34 and ice time that's only been declining, we'll wait and see if this is a three-week move or one that sustains for the rest of the season.
Regardless, the Jokinen move shows the Blue Jackets' ears are perked up. This is an important portion of their schedule, the lightest of the season with four games between now and the end of the month, but points are critical.
Do I think they've got more up their sleeve? Absolutely. They're in a position that requires a boost, teetering between second in the division and out of the playoff mix altogether. The Metropolitan Division has once again become a bear and a prolonged bout with inconsistency can spell doom. Roster tinkering has gone on all season long, shipping players to and from Cleveland, plugging guys in different spots and trying to find combinations that work – but bringing in outside help like Jokinen, a low-risk and potentially rewarding move, tells me they're ready to do something bigger.
We're a month or so from the trade deadline and the speculation will only heat up from here. The Blue Jackets have some help, but they can't sit around and wait for more. They've got plenty of players with more to give, and while coach John Tortorella tries to elicit more from his core players, Kekalainen and his management staff will be burning up the phones to give the coach some more weapons.
As it stands today, I find it increasingly harder to believe this Blue Jackets roster (including the likes of Murray, Atkinson and Dubinsky) will resemble the one they take beyond Feb. 26. It's been said many times, but their window of contention is wide open. Their core is young, they have one of the best goaltenders in the world, and they have to load up to compete in this ridiculous division.
Buckle up, friends. The fun is only getting started.
YOU SHOULD BE READING
- This is the game preview from yesterday. Why am I including it here? Because it's a new, revamped version of our old scouting reports. Like the layout, format, etc? Let me know in the comments. We're striving for something that's easy to read and includes just the right amount of information about that night's game.
- Welcome back, Tyler Motte. The Blue Jackets are without Sonny Milano for more than a month due to an oblique injury, paving the way for Motte's quick return.
- Seth Jones, a Norris Trophy candidate? Believe the hype, folks. That and more in this week's Heat Check.