The Blue Jackets are in a situation that they haven't been used to for some time now.
With their loss last night to the Panthers, coupled with the Red Wings picking up a point in a shootout loss to the Stars, they are now the sole occupant of last place in the Central Division. Playoffs are out of the question, and have been for some time, but there are still games left to play.
For the rest of the season, the Blue Jackets are going to be overmatched in nearly every game. except for their remaining games against Detroit. After trading away three regulars in the lineup in David Savard, Nick Foligno, and Riley Nash, that's to be expected. Of course, Gustav Nyquist, Boone Jenner, and Zach Werenski are out for the rest of the season with injuries, too. That's 33% of the Blue Jackets' NHL lineup out right now.
The organization is treating these remaining games like tryouts. Players are rotating in and out of the lineup on a game-to-game basis as John Tortorella, Jarmo Kekalainen, and the rest of the front office get a look at every asset that they have and start to build for next year. Guys like Kole Sherwood, Zac Dalpe, Gavin Bayreuther, and others have the chance to make a statement in these final nine games.
With that in mind, if the Blue Jackets can continue to get consistent effort from their fringe players, while simultaneously losing most of their remaining games, it would put the club in the best possible situation for next year. It would give them the likelihood of a higher draft pick, as well as develop many of their players who would not typically see NHL ice this season.
One of those players is Bayreuther, who certainly made a statement last night. In 13:17 of ice time, he picked up a shot on goal, two hits, and a +1 rating. His biggest moment of the night came when he clobbered Anthony Duclair with a slightly high hit, then dropped the gloves with Sam Bennett.
Bayreuther picked up a two-minute minor for roughing, along with a five-minute major for fighting. However, the referee did not immediately put his hand up following Bayreuther's hit on Duclair. It was only after the referees came together for a conversation, after Bayreuther's fight with Bennett, that the penalty was called, negating a potential power play for the Blue Jackets due to Bennett's instigator penalty. Tortorella was not pleased, as he could be seen screaming at the refs on the bench, using several choice words.
Dalpe Gets Another
Any time Dalpe scores a goal in the NHL, it's a good night. He's a consummate professional, working his tail off each and every day, no matter whether he's in the AHL or NHL. In the third period, Dalpe found himself in front of the net with just Sergei Bobrovsky to beat. He took three quick whacks at the puck that Bobrovsky was equal to, but his fourth attempt beat the Russian netminder and made it a one-goal game.
"In the first period, I thought we outplayed them," said Dalpe. "Seemed like we tilted the ice, so to speak, in our favor. I know we only have 15 wins on the season, but you gotta take some positives out of that. I thought we played hard right to the end. We haven't had a great second half of the second period. If we clean that up I think we're in a lot more games."