The Columbus Blue Jackets won't be given much time to settle in.
In fact, it'll be quite the opposite.
When the puck drops on the 2022-23 season, the Blue Jackets will begin the campaign with one of their toughest stretches of games for the entire season.
That may not be the worst thing in some cases, but this is a team that has a new franchise player in Johnny Gaudreau and a plethora of young talent with one season or less of NHL experience — from Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov to Kirill Marchenko and Kent Johnson. It could be argued that giving them a little bit of time to gel against lesser teams could benefit them more in the long run than the incredibly tough start to the season.
So, just how tough is the start to the season? The first three games are against teams that finished with no less than 109 points last season — Carolina, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. Two of those three are at the road, with the Lightning being the home opener for the Blue Jackets. The games again both the Hurricanes and the Blues are the home opener for both teams, which is sure to bring an energetic crowd.
All three teams were amongst the nine best in the league last year — and it doesn't end there for Columbus' tough start. After a brief "reprieve" against the 92-point Vancouver Canucks, the Blue Jackets face three more teams that were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, including a back-to-back, home-and-gone against division rivals Pittsburgh (home) and the New York Rangers (road).
Do the math, and it's a scary start: six of the first seven games come against playoff teams, and even the team that didn't make the postseason (Vancouver) finished double-digit games above .500. In all, seven of the first nine opponents finished with 103 or more points last season, all amongst the top 12 finishes in the NHL.
To make matters worse, those seven games come in just 12 days, and with two back-to-backs — neither of which are in the same city.
October ends slightly easier, as Columbus gets Arizona and New Jersey in the final week of the month. But even there, they've got a revamped and refreshed Boston Bruins team visiting Nationwide Arena in between.
Even a .500 finish to the opening month of the season would be a win, especially with November starting in Finland and a pair of games against the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
And there's the good news of the tough start: If the Blue Jackets can just hold their own while the new guys get acquainted, it could be a promising sign of things to come.