While The Circumstances Aren't Ideal, The Columbus Blue Jackets Can Benefit from the Extended Holiday Break

By Will Chase on December 21, 2021 at 3:37 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' head coach Brad Larsen against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rest or rust?

As you've heard by now, the Columbus Blue Jackets won't be playing any more hockey until next Monday, Dec. 27, at the very earliest. That would be 10 straight days without game action before their next scheduled game.

Monday and Wednesday's games against the Buffalo Sabres were postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, effectively extending the Blue Jackets Holiday Break as the NHL was already going to be on pause from Dec. 24-26.

On the 27th they're scheduled to play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena and the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Tuesday, the 28th. Columbus is also scheduled to play at home against the Nashville Predators Thursday, Dec. 30, and is supposed to have a matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, New Year's Day.

Scheduled is the operative word here, as uncertainty with COVID and resulting protocols have made sports even harder to predict, from the major sports and trickling on down across all college sports in the country.

Under the assumption that the Blue Jackets will resume play next week, this current pause might not be the worst-case scenario for a struggling team.

Already reeling from a stretch that saw them fall to 2-5-1 in the month of December and 1-7-0 over their last eight road games, the Blue Jackets have lost six players to COVID-19 protocol in recent days.

Gabriel Carlsson, Boone Jenner, and Jack Roslovic were among the first trio of players to enter COVID-19 protocols over the last few days. Joonas Korpisalo, Andrew Peeke, and Eric Robinson joined them on Monday.

Had they played Monday's game against the Sabres, Columbus would have been even thinner at center without Jenner and Roslovic.

Now without games this week, the team gets to rest up and start their Christmas Break early before getting back to hockey after more than a week off.

And not a moment too soon.

By the time the Blue Jackets hit the ice again, Patrik Laine very well might be part of that group. We talked about his imminent return last Friday and he's been with the team for the last few games, albeit a healthy scratch.

As we examine the current standings, the Blue Jackets look to be battling for the current spot they preside in, which is fifth in the Metropolitan Division. In fourth are the Pittsburgh Penguins who have won seven-straight games and hold a 10-point advantage over the Blue Jackets.

As we wrote about on the 16th, the Blue Jackets are simply consistently inconsistent. As we've seen play out in recent games, the Blue Jackets have been unable to string together a full 60 minutes, and another constant is that Brad Larsen's bunch has allowed at least three goals in all 15 road games this season.

Sometimes teams are just plain unlucky.

While they are 5-10-0 on the road with a -20 goal differentially, conversely, things are much more improved at home where they are 9-3-1 with a +15 goal differential.

If you thought this team would be right around their record of 14-13-1 at the Holiday pause, maybe one takes that. According to FiveThirtyEight, they have a 16% chance of making the playoffs (better than MoneyPuck's odds).

The Blue Jackets are currently trying to fend off the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, and a New York Islanders team that many considered favorites for the division and a deep playoff run before the season.

The mistakes we've seen by the Blue Jackets are not all that uncommon for young teams, but it doesn't make the errors, gaffes, and struggles any easier to witness on a nightly basis.

At this point, hopefully, the extended pause for the Holiday Break will reset the team ahead of their next game.

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