The Blue Jackets' Veterans Are Struggling, but John Tortorella Is Keeping His Faith in Them

By Jacob Nitzberg on November 29, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Nov 19, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) chips the puck past Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (15) during the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Goal scoring hasn't come easily for the Blue Jackets this season.

Pierre-Luc Dubois leads Columbus with 10, and no other skater has more than six. The Blue Jackets have played 24 games. 

They're averaging 2.5 goals scored per game, which has them sitting at 29th in the NHL. One of the biggest reasons behind the scoring issues is the dip in production from Blue Jackets that were reliable goal scorers last season.

Goals After 24 Games Played
Player 2018-19 2019-20
Josh Anderson (18 GP) 7 1
Cam Atkinson 16 4
Nick Foligno 6 2

That's 29 goals from this trio a season ago, which has only produced seven in the same timeframe this year. While Anderson, Atkinson, and Foligno have been some of the most notable players struggling, it's a team-wide bug.

Despite his veterans' offensive struggles, head coach John Tortorella knows they're able to turn it around. 

"I can't just give up on them," said Tortorella in today's pregame press conference before the Blue Jackets take on the Penguins tonight at Nationwide Arena. "(However), it's not a blank check to allow them to continue."

When Tortorella pulled Joonas Korpisalo near the end of the Blue Jackets' 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, Atkinson wasn't initially on the ice as Columbus pushed for the game-tying goal. Instead, Oliver Bjorkstrand got the nod.

I think our guys are trying. I think there's some frustration.– Head Coach John Tortorella

Tortorella continued: "If it's an effort thing, it's a different story for me. I think our guys are trying. I think there's some frustration."

We've seen in the past that John Tortorella is not afraid to scratch a player he thinks is lacking effort, but he's made it clear that the veterans' struggles are not for lack of effort.

"After (Anderson) sits on the bench for a period, I think he plays a good couple of periods and ends up with some scoring chances," said Tortorella. "Certain minutes, you find (Atkinson). Other minutes, you can't. It's still inconsistent."

"Effort will be a different story," Tortorella stated again. "But I don't see that in the guys that are struggling."

Every game is a chance to change the narrative. Foligno, Atkinson, Anderson and the rest of the Blue Jackets will have a chance to do so tonight against the Penguins.