We're one-quarter portion through the NHL season, and the Jackets have quite a bit to be thankful for, despite still having some visible flaws. We took a break from all the meal prep today to sit down and talk through some holiday-themed Jackets questions.
Folks, the Jackets are atop the Metropolitan Division. They’ve clearly had some success here in the first quarter of the season. What should they be thankful for this Thanksgiving?
RM: The Blue Jackets have their organizational depth to be thankful for this year. And you thought I was going to say Sergei Bobrovsky, didn’t you? But seriously. One of the major differences for them (so far) has been their ability to get by and win games, get points, etc. while missing some core players. Credit to Jarmo Kekalainen and his staff for compiling a roster that is balanced and deep – which we are all concerned about after the departures of William Karlsson, Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell. Their bottom six is not just “good enough,” it’s good. Even without Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak at varying points in the last month, they’re at the top of the Metro Division and hanging tough.
SB: The Blue Jackets should be thankful that they haven’t even played their best overall game yet and nonetheless, are still at the top of their division. They could have an astronomical PDO and everyone would cry foul on the Blue Jackets again but they’re playing just about in line with their numbers. This a good thing and that means that some of the losses they’ve faced could end up going the other way with a bit of puck luck. They are in the driver’s seat of their own destiny and they still haven’t had a full team performance. That is scary don’t you think?
DD: To echo what Sam said, the Blue Jackets should be thankful that they haven’t played many (any?) 60-minute hockey games and still boast an impressive record. Not sure I would have expected that at the beginning of the season. More so, they should be thankful that Sergei Bobrovsky has been there to save their (turkey?) bacon on a consistent basis to start the year. The fact that they’ve managed to stay in the thick of the playoff picture without many of their top players - Wennberg, Atkinson, and Foligno, especially - playing at the top of their game(s) is a good sign for the franchise. This could be a legitimately scary team if/when everyone starts clicking.
JS: The Blue Jackets should be thankful for Zach Werenski. It doesn't get any better than this. Fans seemed unsure who the team should take when it ended up eighth in the 2015 draft, and Werenski was an intriguing choice. He was super young, he had great skill, and he was a defenseman, making him not exactly the most projectable player out there. There was some risk in making the pick, and he's turned out to be one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the league. Some youngsters have moved in fits and starts in their CBJ careers, but Werenski seems to be on a permanent track upward. Enjoy him, Blue Jackets fans. There aren't many guys like this in the National Hockey League.
KM: They should absolutely be thankful that Sergei Bobrovsky heated the hell up when the goal scorers cooled off. The Jackets have been a great 5-on-5 team all year – and that was with top center Alexander Wennberg seemingly playing hurt. Somehow, the squad is on a five-game winning streak, with just nine goals over that span (plus a two in a shootout), with two coming in overtime. In that same span, Bob has let in just four goals. That is insane.
Keeping with the holiday season theme, what should Jarmo and Torts ask for in their “dear Santa” letters?
RM: I think they both want the same thing: help down the middle. It’s pretty lean at center ice right now, but the emergence (temporary emergence, mind you) of Pierre-Luc Dubois gives them some breathing room as they work the phones and try to find a trade fit. Their defense is one of the best in the NHL, their goaltender is the best in the world, but their forward group needs a boost. We’ll see where this goes over the next few weeks, but the GM and head coach no doubt have similar wish lists.
SB: They should want a bright and shiny Alex Galchenyuk. They also better hope that GM Marc Bergevin is in a giving mood. It doesn’t appear likely that the Blue Jackets want to damage their core to get a player where they are unsure of his future. Galchenyuk’s value is at the lowest it’s ever been. It wouldn’t be a bad gift to put under the tree for the holidays.
DD: Jarmo wants a center, plain and simple. The composition of this team is totally bizarre, and a high-impact center is the obvious missing piece. The club has the league’s top goalie, a pretty stacked back end, and a surplus of solid wingers…. But a lack of a true top-end center is blatant. Wennberg has been a disappointment to date, but even if he were having a great season, the club would still be missing that top-six center. Is that player available? Possibly, and Jarmo has never been afraid of making a big splash. Who knows if he arrives under the tree before Christmas, but it certainly wouldn’t be a shock.
JS: I essentially wrote this Wednesday, but the answer is a top-six center. It would just balance out the lineup in a way the team desperately needs, and it would allow either Nick Foligno or Pierre-Luc Dubois to head back to wing, which would relieve some pressure on their end of things. It's not good for anyone that Foligno is on pace for less than 40 points this year, and Dubois is really starting to look the part but shouldn't be depended on to be a middle of the ice guy of a particular import right now. This is the move the team structured its entire offseason around, and it's the move that has to happen at some point or the team will be staring a disappointing end in the face.
KM: Health for Wennberg and for Dubois to continue to look the part at center. While I’ve been beating the “top six center trade” drum all season long, those two things would certainly satiate them through February, when the market is all but assured to be more active. Aside from that? Some 1OB/11W Dry Goods, of course!
Cam Atkinson was included in a Thanksgiving-themed feature on ESPN.com for holiday recipes. Does it sound good enough for your holiday feast? Bonus question: What Thanksgiving dish is your specialty?
RM: Cheesy potato/hash brown casserole. Followed closely by green bean casserole. I like casseroles.
KM: I’m not really a seafood guy, so I can’t judge Cam’s salmon, but Aaron Ekblad’s cookies sounded delightful. And I don’t personally have a specialty, but I did request some large tortillas one Thanksgiving. Why? To make a homemade version of the Gobblerito, a Thanksgiving-themed burrito filled with mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn and turkey, smothered with gravy on top. It’s the most elite holiday concoction and I encourage everyone to try it.
SB: I, myself, don’t have a specialty that I make but my family eats graham cracker pie and a really weird jello dessert that involves pineapple and marshmallows. It is fantastic. This big boy likes his treats.
DD: Cam’s cooking sounds delightful. Cam, if you’re reading this, feel free to stop by. Like Sam, I find myself eating more than cooking during these festivities, but I can make a respectable mashed potato dish.
JS: I never liked stuffing growing up. I always felt it was weird, soggy bread, and there's little I dislike more than soggy bread. But as I've gotten older, now I think it's an elite side dish. I'm always going for seconds on stuffing. First, it's delicious. It's just a unique, hearty flavor you don't eat any other time of the year. Second, it's warm, and as the weather turns cold, who doesn't like shoving hot, fulfilling food down their face? So count me on team stuffing, with deep-fried turkey also getting a mention. Once you go fried, you never go back.