The Blue Jackets once again find themselves in the playoff hunt this season. It seems so long ago that Columbus was a perennial loser, yet general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and head coach John Tortorella have changed the culture of mediocrity in a big way for the Blue Jackets organization.
Despite his penchant for passionate speeches that are, more often than not, construed in a negative fashion, Tortorella has a keen eye for a hard-working and talented player. Columbus has aptly paired that with Jarmo and is reaping their rewards for a smart hire once again this season, sitting at 27-16-8 and 4th in the Metro with 31 games remaining in their season.
After being predicted by many to be a bottom feeder, this is quite the achievement.
Many outside of Columbus are confused about how they continue to find success despite the loss of longtime netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, certified superstar Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. Despite their lack of understanding, the reason is quite obvious to see for anyone who pays a bit of attention to the organization, and the reason is drafting and defensive depth.
Time and time again the organization has identified prospects that can slot into the system. They have done quite the job in spacing out picks and knowing when to bring someone up. Even with that preparation, sometimes these prospects are brought to the forefront much sooner than expected, and even then they succeed.
It is players like Zach Werenski, Markus Nutivaara, and Vladislav Gavrikov that prove that the management has a keen eye for the intelligent and composed defenseman a successful organization needs. Pair that with the acquisition of Seth Jones over four seasons ago and an already solid foundation of David Savard and Ryan Murray, despite his injury problems, and you have a recipe for a top-five NHL defensive corps.
It is because of this core of defensive stalwarts that the Blue Jackets has the third most staunch defense in the NHL, allowing only 778 goals during that time for a rate of only 2.62-per-game, only being topped by the Boston Bruins (760 goals allowed for 2.56-per-game) and the Vegas Golden Knights, who have allowed 611 goals in 81 fewer games played, resulting in 2.83-per-game.
With this, it becomes far more obvious why the Blue Jackets have been so successful in the last few seasons: defensive depth and drafting players to fit that system.
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