The Columbus Blue Jackets Have Less Depth Than We Thought In The Offseason

By Dan Dukart on November 16, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Emil Bemstrom
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few months ago, much of the discourse around the Columbus Blue Jackets was about the absolute log jam of NHL bodies in training camp.

Sure, it's hard to say with conviction that a team that finished in 31st place just had 'too much depth', but the basic thought was that, with the return of injured players, the drafting of Adam Fantilli, the acquisition of Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson, and the imports of Alexandre Texier and Dmitri Voronkov, that there were genuinely too many NHL players for a 23-man roster.

On Nov 16, that thinking seems silly.

By the time you're reading this, we'll likely know if Emil Bemstrom, who was placed on waivers yesterday, is still a member of the organization. Since the start of the season, Eric Robinson (who cleared) and Liam Foudy (who was claimed by Nashville) were also placed on waivers. Defensively, players like Adam Boqvist and Andrew Peeke have spent more time watching from the press box, as it's becoming more evident by the day that they are unlikely part of the organization's long-term plans. Others, like David Jiricek and Kent Johnson, namely, have been demoted to the AHL while not requiring waivers, in both instances getting the raw end of a deal that said less about their play and more about roster mismanagement. 

Put simply, the guys on the fringe are on the fringe for a reason: they are consistently inconsistent, unable to string together enough consecutive strong games to give themselves - or their coaches - confidence. It's also a cautionary tale: sometimes teams give their homegrown talent a longer leash than they would if they were a more objective party.

If there is a silver lining to this miscalculation, it's that the current fourth line; Sean Kuraly, Justin Danforth, and Alexandre Texier, has been notably good in recent games. And the (arguably top) line of Fantilli, Voronkov, and Kirill Marchenko features two players who weren't on the team last year (and thus pushed out the aforementioned incumbents) and Marchenko, who was inconsistent to start the season but has 4-2-6 in his past seven games. 

If there is an elephant in the room, it's that the organization continues to keep Cole Sillinger at the NHL, exposing three of his competitors to waivers, whereas he is waivers exempt. Playing him on the third line with Johnny Gaudreau, then subsequently wondering why Gaudreau is struggling to produce, is the exact type of decision-making that you may expect from a team that is 4-8-4 and 1-6-3 in its past 10 games. Perhaps playing Gaudreau with another playmaker, like current AHL demotee Johnson, or recent callup Yegor Chinakhov, would be a better fit, almost by default.

The Blue Jackets are realizing what perhaps should have been obvious all along - that many of the "NHL bodies" that were referenced in the offseason, through training camp, and into the NHL season, were simply replacement-level players. 

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