Net Battle: With Offense Struggling, Do Blue Jackets Deal a Goaltender for Scoring?

By Chris Pennington on August 26, 2020 at 12:20 am
Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo #70 of the Columbus Blue Jackets congratulates fellow netminder Elvis Merzlikins #90 after an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on July 30, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. The Blue Jackets defeated the Bruins 4-1.
Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

Taking risks is how teams go from good to great.

The Columbus Blue Jackets surprised the hockey world this past season by making the playoffs for a fourth-consecutive season. I guess I should clarify though, that the surprise wasn't the playoff-making streak. It was that the club lost three of its four best players to free agency, and had a fairly similar year success-wise.

But, when it came that postseason time, the Blue Jackets' sputtering offense proved too inexperienced for that of the likes of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And if it wasn't the Lightning, it would've been almost every other team.

You cannot be a bottom-five scoring team in the NHL and expect to have serious Stanley Cup aspirations, which is where the Blue Jackets were at this past year. However, arguably the best defensive core in the league and two budding star goaltenders gives hope to tweaking that offense a bit.

Holding onto an abundance of assets can only provide so much excitement for the future. Blue Jackets fans know - they'd rather be contenders than "one of the youngest teams in the league". So hanging onto depth for the sake of security just won't cut it. It'll get you to the playoffs, but you'll see the same result every time.

Sadly, and excitingly enough, going "all-in" (as the club did a year ago) is where you will find yourself to be a true postseason threat. But the question is, when is it wise to go all-in? And how?

The Blue Jackets still have a window of success open right now, refusing to rebuild following their massive free agency losses. To get back to the level they were a year ago - which was true Stanely Cup contenders - they will need to make some moves, and add some Artemi Panarin - Matt Duchene caliber forwards (sigh).

Free agency is nice for that, but Columbus has proved to not be the hot spot for landing stars over the years. They will have to trade for their elite talent.

The goaltenders they have are great. And that's why one must go. It is rare that an NHL team operates out of a two-goalie system and wins a Cup. And with Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins on team-friendly deals, now would be an ideal time to dish one of them, along with a couple of defensemen, for a scorer or two.

That is, unless we suspect the Alexandre Texiers, Emil Bemstroms and Liam Foudys of the world to become 40-goal scorers one day. Do we want to wait and see how this pans out? Or stock up now, pick a franchise goalie, and get back into contention?

This is more of a philosophical argument, as I know you could make strong cases statistically to keep both goaltenders on the roster for another year. But, if you seemingly know what you're going to get out of both of them, and the best teams have just one elite goalie, why not dish one and get your name back in the mix to win it all?