What are the five keys to success this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets?
It's easy to say the team needs to score more goals in the attacking zone and keep as many pucks as possible out at the other end.
It's true but boring.
In pondering how good this team really is right now, we take a look at some of the good luck bounces that went the team's way on many occasions last year and the troubling areas that need to be cleaned up. The notable trends we witnessed that toe the line between luck—the good and the bad—and sustainable success.
The Blue Jackets had one of the best records in extra time last season, going 7-4 in overtime and 4-3 in the shootout. Shootouts are pretty whacky and essentially a skills competition by the time a team gets to one of those, and it's basically the flip of a coin in how those are determined. We wrote about the shootout last year.
The Blue Jackets finished 37-38-7 and their 81 points pitted them fourth in the Wild Card, but 19 points back of the Washington Capitals who finished with the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
For the first time in NHL history, all of the eastern conference playoff teams have 100+ points— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) April 26, 2022
So, who's the best team?
The number of points they accumulated just by going to overtime is one thing, and then being able to secure the second point with as much regularity as they did is nice, but hardly a barometer of success to rely on.
In 2020-21, the Blue Jackets were snake bitten in the extra session, going 3-9 in overtime, but 3-3 in the shootout.
That was the year they missed the playoffs, breaking a four-year playoff streak, and finishing 16 points behind the Nashville Predators in the Central Division. Clearly, there were other issues on the team than their play in overtime, but the record could have been better just by pulling out a few more of those wins in the extra session.
With three-on-three overtime these days emphasizing a heavy dose of skill, the Blue Jackets look to harness the same energy from last season with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, and others off the overtime face-off and instantly on the attack.
How many goals were disallowed or waived off as a single result of being offside?
This was actually the ninth time the Blue Jackets have had a goal overturned by a missed offside review and first since Zach Werenski's early entry Mar. 4 against the Kings in an OTL.— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) April 20, 2022
That one overturned Boone Jenner's apparent OT winner.#CBJ
This feels like a correctable tactic that can be worked on and should be addressed over training camp.
It’s understandable that a couple of these might happen over the course of a season. Yet the degree in volume that this occurred last season, ultimately resulting in goals taken off the scoreboard, makes you wonder how many more games the team could have won.
Again, they finished nearly 20 points out of a playoff spot, but a few bounces your way, and it's worth wondering just what kind of team this is and how close they are.
With the luxury of the coach’s challenge, replay now allows for even the most microscopic review to take place. But make no mistake, staying onside has to be cleaned up this season.
It’s especially notable in close games, such as on Apr. 19 against the Sharks, a 3-2 loss, in which a goal was overturned due to offsides and was the difference from earning at least one point.
The Blue Jackets had 23 comeback wins last season—sixth most in the NHL—which set a franchise record.
It's the sign of a good, tough, and resilient team as they can come back from a deficit on most nights. It's always a dangerous proposition for opponents to contend with when teams who can come back with regularity appear to never be out of games. The Jackets also won nine games—second most in the league—in which they trailed through two periods, and that also tied a franchise record.
Columbus did lose eight games (four in regulation, four past regulation) entering the third period with a lead—second most in the NHL—so it evened out a little, didn't it?
All this said, if you don't allow so many goals, you might not have to come back so often. The ability to come back is not the recipe for success that you can count on year in and year out.
The Presidents Trophy-winning Florida Panthers led the league with 29 comeback wins. Did those wins mask issues with the team come playoff time when they went out with a whimper in four to the Tampa Bay Lightning?
It did work for the Colorado Avalanche, who tied a playoff record with 10 comeback wins.
The Colorado Avalanche are the 2022 Stanley Cup champions.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) June 27, 2022
They went 16-4, never trailed in a series, had 10 comeback wins and defeated the two-time defending champions.
Hell of a run.
If there is one thing that points to future success with the team is goals aplenty for the Blue Jackets this season. Can they break last season's franchise record and surpass 258 tallies?
Would you take Gaudreau scoring 100 points in a season or Laine scoring 50 goals in a season if you had to choose?
Both would be franchise milestones.
Columbus featured 12 different players to score at least 10 goals last season, tying the 2016-17 team in the record books. They had four players notch 20 goals, tying the 2018-19 club for the second-most when they had five.
As BlueJackets.com's Jeff Svoboda mentioned, "Columbus had four 20-goal scorers, tied for the second-most in franchise history (5, 2018-19) and four 50-point scorers, third-most in CBJ history (5, 2009-10 and 2016-17)."
Who will step up and be this year's unsung hero?
Jack Roslovic is the single-season franchise record holder for most goals in the month of April with 10 and tied Jake Voracek for most points in April with 13. Justin Danforth scored 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in 45 games, his rookie season.
Good teams find ways to win on the road.
Brad Larsen's bunch were 16-23-2 away from Nationwide Arena, which was eighth-worst in the league, and third-worst inside the Metropolitan Division, as they were five wins better than the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. It's another one of those areas where you pull out a few more victories, go at least .500 on the road, and you're closer to that playoff conversation this season.
Coby Maeir wrote about the Blue Jackets’ struggles within the Metropolitan Division last season. Clearly, any improvement beyond nine wins in 26 games is an improvement technically, and being closer to .500 inside the division would certainly be a mark to strive for this season. A few more wins there is another ingredient towards making the playoff picture that much tighter.