If just a few seasons ago, you were to tell me that Josh Anderson and David Savard would be a part of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021, I'd be giddy.
So much for that.
With the Columbus Blue Jackets approaching two months since their season finale, it's already been a busy offseason - despite the official offseason still being a week or so away, following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Here are some casual thoughts as we approach both the end of June and the end of a short (yet somehow long) season
Go Habs Go
Speaking of the Stanley Cup Finals, let's see Anderson lift the Cup. It's nothing personal against Savard, but does anyone outside of Tampa want to see the Lightning win it all again? The lack of humility from the franchise is enough to permanently roll eyes. Cute salary cap loophole, by the way.
Add Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek to the growing list of NHL experts or insiders who support Brad Larsen's first hire as head coach. From their Sunday podcast:
Marek: “You just mentioned Pascal Vincent’s name a couple moments ago. He joins Brad Larsen’s bench in Columbus. He’s considered a real up and comer, or an emerging coach, getting close to taking his NHL shot here, right?”
Friedman: “Yes I do think so. ... He interviewed in Columbus, where they kind of began to like him a bit. ... Some of the teams that were talking young, they definitely were interested - or fresh - were definitely interested in Vincent. That’s an interesting hire for (Larsen).”
Vincent may not be an assistant for too long if a head coach role opens up next year, so maximizing his ability to develop young players is crucial.
Who knows whether or not former captain Nick Foligno will come back to the Blue Jackets, but does it matter? Foligno does not seem the kind of guy who want to hold on to the captaincy after leaving the team, perhaps opting to hand over the reigns to one of his former alternates. More over, Larsen may want to choose a new face to represent the franchise. Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner remain the two most logical choices by a safe margin of the roster as currently composed, but Zach Werenski and Oliver Bjorkstrand could be dark horse candidates.
Center Depth In Free Agency
With Max Domi out for the first month or two of the season, the Blue Jackets will start off even weaker at their already weakest position. If general manager Jarmo Kekalainen opts to make a depth signing at center, as he did last year with the signing of Mikko Koivu, plenty of names could be available. Mikael Granlund, who the club was interested in last offseason, will again be available. Casey Cizikas, Erik Haula, Blake Coleman, Phillip Danault also fit the bill, though some more than others. Kekalainen may even look to dip back into the Wild's group of free agent centers, with Marcus Johansson, Nick Bjugstad, and Nick Bonino all UFA's this summer.
NHL Insider John Shannon had deputy commissioner Bill Daly on his podcast last week, where Daly confirmed that the 2021-22 schedule is likely to come out the third week of July.
Two versions of the schedule are already out to teams; one with an Olympic pause, and one without. The schedules are believed to be with a return to previous divisions, meaning the Blue Jackets will go back to seeing plenty of Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia.
The league has been drawn towards an October 12th start for some time now, only a few days later than most regular seasons have in the recent past.