Taking A Look At The Blue Jackets' 2016 Offseason And Any Lessons That Can Be Learned As The Team Looks To Build Toward Contention

By Dan Greene on July 2, 2022 at 11:55 am
Columbus Blue Jackets celebrate a goal during the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nationwide Arena.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

As has been previously discussed, learning everything they can from more successful organizations would be wise for the Columbus Blue Jackets; as they are in the beginning stages of trying to build a long-term, championship contender. However, the franchise is likely focused on the next step of making the postseason as they finished two spots out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

However sparing their success may be once getting there, making the postseason is something the Blue Jackets have done before. While they only qualified for it in two of their first fifteen seasons, they did make the Stanley Cup Playoffs four years in a row from 2016-20, winning their first-ever playoff series as well. Though, they have now largely hit the reset button, trading away a lot of the key pieces from their playoff runs.

Even with the franchise choosing to retool/rebuild, there are lessons that can be learned from the CBJ's own history as they look to once again be playing well into April and May. The hope is that Columbus can eventually go further than they did during the 2016-20 seasons, but there is no denying that that was the most successful period in Blue Jackets' history. This time around, the organization will certainly look to avoid some of the mistakes they made, as well as looking to emulate the aforementioned positive examples outside the organization. But it would also behoove them to look at the things they did well and incorporate them as they look to build toward contention.

Let's go back to the 2016 offseason (right before they made their run) to compare and contrast that with the Blue Jackets' current situation. What can the team glean from how they moved forward then, in order to aid them as they look to take the next step now?

  • The first point of comparison is the number of players that were brought up from the AHL. The club brought up a total of nine players from the Monsters during the 2016-17 season, and these players were instrumental in both aiding the team with their own play as well as pushing veterans such as Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno to up their production. One of these players was Calder Trophy finalist, Zach Werenski who set a franchise record with 47 points as a rookie.

This past season the Jackets set a franchise record with ten players making their NHL debuts, many of them making quite an impact as a rookie. The club will most likely see more debuts from potential impact rookies such as Kirill Marchenko. They will also look to have youngsters such as Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson build off of what they have done so far. 

  • Another comparison to the 2016 squad would be the goalie situation. Then goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky was coming off of a down season, posting the second-worst save percentage (SV%) and goals-against average (GAA) to that point in his career. He dropped weight, refocused, and put in a lot of work that offseason which resulted in him winning his second Vezina Trophy and leading his team to the playoffs.

 Current goalie, Elvis Merzlikins finds himself in a similar situation. He is coming off the worst SV% and GAA of his career with .907 and 3.22 respectively. Some of those struggles can be attributed to the weak play of the blue line in front of him, but he is also in need of refocusing and gaining his confidence back as he looks to have a bounceback year and help lead the Blue Jackets towards the playoffs.