Call it pressure. Call it nerves.
But let's also call a spade a spade: there's no room, in a playoff race, for the Blue Jackets to birth the dinosaur egg they did Thursday night in Edmonton.
It's just confounding at this point.
A team that loaded up at the trade deadline and added top-six talent to bolster key positions throughout the lineup has somehow taken a sharp decline in the weeks since. Make no mistake: the Blue Jackets didn't get the green light on their "all-in" trade deadline plan just to grab the second Wild Card spot and get bounced by Tampa Bay in five games. They had eyes on something bigger.
And right now, it appears to be a longshot at best for something like that to happen.
“We've just gotta play better," said defenseman Seth Jones. "You look at the game tonight and they’re playing for nothing and we’re playing something, and it’s not what it looks like."
The Blue Jackets, for the second time in a few weeks, failed to show up against a bad team that's going nowhere. The Oilers' president of hockey operations is at season ticket holder breakfasts dunking on underperforming $2 million players. Their head coach reportedly almost quit because the job was so undesirable. They're actively wasting prime years of one of the game's best players. And they don't have a GM or a discernible plan moving forward.
Yet they've clobbered Columbus in two games – each worth two points – leaving the Blue Jackets one point behind the Montreal Canadiens and on the outside looking in.
"Enough with the meetings, enough with the talk," Jones said. "We've gotta find a way to motivate ourselves and motivate yourself individually to be the best player you can be every night and be the best player for this team.”
There is a very real scenario where, in two weeks' time, the Blue Jackets are outside the playoff picture by a point or two, while holding the powerful ROW tiebreaker on most teams around them and boasting more talent than those they're competing with – and they collected exactly zero (0) points in two meetings with the NHL's brightest-burning tire fire.
“They’re not playing for anything," Jones said of the Oilers. "It’s different in this room – we’re in a position to do something, make the playoffs and make some noise, and something has to change here.”
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