"What's Going On?": That's The Daily Question Concerning The State Of The Columbus Blue Jackets

By Will Chase on January 31, 2024 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent looks on from the bench against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Amerant Bank Arena.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The drama has run rampant this season.

From player healthy scratches to those expressing their desire to leave or not to cornerstone prospects expressing their frustration of being sent back and forth to the minors, the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to give many in the media with a voice and a platform plenty to talk about.

And that's a good thing.

The more this trainwreck of a season plays out, and the puzzling decisions to go with it from the front office and coaching staff, the more this embarrassing stench will continue to be talked about in the national media.

You'd think that would infuriate ownership that their franchise is considered a punch line. And that's not even talking about the minimal on-ice results for over 20 years.

"This is a delusional Blue Jackets franchise and front office," Frank Seravalli said on Monday on Daily Faceoff Live. "I can't believe what I'm seeing play itself out here.

"You've got (David) Jiricek, who depending on how you slice it with (Adam) Fantilli and Denton Mateychuk, either way, at very worst, he's your third-best prospect. And more than that, I think this season, based on eye test and statistics, is the Blue Jackets' second-best defenseman.

"He's still a teenager, still finding his way in the game, but given what we just said about their season being over, why isn't Jiricek playing? Why is he sitting out as a healthy scratch? Why is he being shuttled back and forth to Cleveland? Why is he out in Calgary and told to pack his bags and get back to Cleveland to play?

"It doesn't really make a lot of sense."

Seravalli continues on.

"This is simmering situation that bears watching because he's voiced his frustration and the Blue Jackets have essentially clapped back and said, more or less, get in line."

And it comes back around to the man in charge.

"It certainly feels like their Jarmo Kekalainen, their GM, without a cohesive plan, is halfway off the plank."

As is also mentioned in the episode, the Blue Jackets have confused many with their off-season moves in recent years.

It's understandable when someone like Johnny Gaudreau falls into your lap and you can get your first UFA superstar. Even if the timeline between player in the prime of his career and the birth of a rebuild — despite the fact the organization doesn't want to consider this (can you smell the tire fire?) a rebuild — don't exactly match up. Then there are the moves for Damon Severson and Ivan Provorov last summer.

"They're going sideways or backwards. It's not that people don't want to play in Columbus, it's that people don't want to play in Columbus with this management group and with this coaching staff right now."

You can catch the whole episode below, with the Blue Jackets talk starting at 8:03.

Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on Monday's 32 Thoughts Podcast weighed in on the situation centered around Jiricek and the Blue Jackets at the 34:20 mark.

"Columbus is in the middle of the plagues here, seeing Fantilli leave (Sunday's loss against the Seattle Kraken)," said Friedman.

"The Jiricek thing, that's a problem. That's a big problem.

"No. 1, Columbus is not winning and No. 2, they promised him a spot in the NHL this year, they told him to find a place. If you ask any team, they'll tell you that's a dicey thing because once you tell someone to find a place, it's understood he's going to stay.

"It's harder because this is such a huge part of your franchise future, he's obviously very disappointed, and you're not winning games. So he's looking at it as 'I deserve to play based on what's happening here.'

"And it's clear to me, based on what he's saying, that he's not 100% buying what they're selling. So the challenge is, because he's so important to their future, they've got to make him buy into what they're telling him."

Friedman pointed to the fact that Alan Walsh is Jiricek's agent, and Walsh is known for speaking his mind on behalf of his clients on social media like X. But in this case, Walsh hasn't said anything about the Jiricek situation and he only says things if his players are okay with it. The fact he hasn't talked about it on social media is a good thing for Columbus.

"I am really impressed, the fact that (Jiricek) is the one here doing the talking," said Friedman. "He comes across as a very mature kid. He's laying out his feelings. He doesn't sound like a whiner. He's explaining how he feels. He showed up to play. I've got no problem with anything here.

"Basically, what he has done, through Aaron Portzline (from Sunday's article in The Athletic), he has explained to the fans, 'this is what I'm thinking.'

"I've got no problem with this. It seems like he's handling this very maturely."

A final thought. Good on Patrik Laine for getting the help he needs and deserves. We hope the best for him.

Fresh off their 1-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets hit a much-needed All-Star Break and will resume action on Saturday, Feb. 10 when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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