A Message is Becoming Clear for the Blue Jackets: Play the Younger Players

By Sam Blazer on March 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) in action during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Columbus Blue Jackets at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are at an absolute fork in the road.

They, of course, came into the season with hopes that they would make the playoffs and ensure that their streak of strong play continues on for quite a while. Now, after an 11-12-7 start, reality is beginning to set in. While they're not out of it completely yet, the odds aren't exactly in their favor.

But it seems like they've made a decision on their pathway and how they would like to proceed. They waived forward Mikhail Grigorenko yesterday, which shows the club's commitment going forward to giving their younger players more time. 

"The younger players in my mind right now get that opportunity," said John Tortorella when asked specifically about Grigorenko's play. "I have to keep my mind on the ball as far as the future."

While Tortorella isn't signed to coach after this season, the point still stands. The Blue Jackets need to figure out what they have in many players. That means more time for players like Emil Bemstrom, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier and even players like Liam Foudy and Trey Fix-Wolansky down in the AHL.

The cost of possibly losing games is high, but by the same token, getting a better sense of what they have is going to make the team even better moving forward.

For someone like Bemstrom who has had trouble finding a spot in the lineup, this will be a godsend. This means consistent time and consistent placement in the lineup. Whether that continues will be completely up to the player itself, but considering how this has been divided up previously, this is a whole lot more than what they were getting.

It also invites another pathway for the team to proceed down, while it isn't explicitly saying that the team is giving up and going down the path of a tank. This takes a lot of the decision-making outside of the hands of Tortorella, and it's more of a decision that comes from the front office and allows a distinct directive to play out.

Wins may not be the top priority for the Blue Jackets this season, at this point. That's not to say that they won't compete and try hard every game, but they're working on developing what they've got. It may take some getting used to for both the fans and the coaching staff as they find their way.

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