Ah, silver linings.
The best part about getting bounced from the playoffs early, yes?
Yes and no. When your team loses in the playoffs, sometimes the last thing you want to hear is about how they have "so many good things going for them" or "the future is bright" or a Columbus fan-favorite: "they're one of the youngest teams in the league!"
It's statements that the Blue Jackets have had surrounding them for seemingly the past, what, 400 years?
Let’s set aside our angst with those statements for a few minutes, though. Let’s look at what the Blue Jackets desperately need, and why, yes, it is really good that they are young in this category.
Scoring. They’re awful at it!
The Blue Jackets were in the bottom-five in the NHL regular season in goals-for, which for a team that qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is pretty insane. Though, they have arguably the best defensive unit in the league and two stud goaltenders, so not too surprising.
When it comes to postseason time, though, you have to score. I knew the Blue Jackets would have a tight series with whomever they matched up with, but I knew they had no shot at a Cup.
You need stars on offense. They have none...yet!
In summary, they’re bad at scoring, and their scorers are young. If they had bad young scorers, then this would all be bad (like most of their franchise history). But, it seems like we have some good young scorers. They’re just young. So, that’s good? Right?
Let’s breakdown who we’re referring to. There’s gents like Pierre-Luc Dubois who have already proved their potential value and are young, so we’re going to look at four rookies who could play key roles next year.
In 36 games this year, Texier put up 6-7-13. It wasn’t the best regular season for a kid that had chatter of rookie-of-the-year around him, but several injuries broke his flow.
The playoffs are where we really saw Texier catch fire. He had four assists in ten games, and was an absolute pest to his opponents. His high hockey IQ led him to being in incredible forechecking position and ability to disrupt the vibe of enemy breakouts. His 21:52 ice time in the playoffs shows John Tortorella’s trust in hind and his 49.9 CF% is just icing on the cake.
Bemstrom caught fire at the end of the regular season, but mightily cooled off in the playoffs, proving a bit that he likely needed another offseason under his belt to really start making an impact.
Still, 10-10-20 in 56 regular season games was a solid campaign, including five power play goals. His small frame and fidgety nature with the puck was exposed in postseason play, but that’s fine. He’s still a kid. Let’s let him grow.
Man, wasn’t that Toronto Maple Leafs series so fun to watch with Liam Foudy? He was flying on every shift, using his speed at the right times to create great scoring chances, and tallied his first playoff goal to essentially ice the series.
He was tamed a bit against the Tampa Bay Lightning, similar to how Texier was against the Boston Bruins last postseason, but this is also fine for the 19-year-old. He was getting almost 17 minutes of ice time with a 48.3 CF% in the playoffs, setting the stage for a stellar 2020-2021 campaign.
I was bummed Stenlund wasn’t in the lineup earlier in this postseason, and guys like Nathan Gerbe and Devin Shore were instead, but I’m glad he got a shot in general. Still, when given the bird Stenlund did what he did best, score a power play goal in just his second-ever playoff game.
In his two games in the postseason, Stenlund had a 73.9 CF%, but the regular season is where he really showed his value, similar to Bemstrom. His rookie campaign consisted of a stat line of 10 points in 36 games, including three power play goals. He has a calm presence and a wicked twister.
I know we’re all tired of the Blue Jackets being young. But these four rookies have showed sparks of greatness, unlike past rookies, and are worth being excited for come next season.