Our Columbus Blue Jackets 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The Columbus Blue Jackets had a poor season. They finished the season in last place in the Central Division with a 18-26-12 record and 48 points. Surprisingly they didn’t have the highest total of overtime and shootout losses, that honour belongs to Dallas with 14. The Blue Jackets struggled at both ends of the ice. They were 29th of 31 in the league for goals for with 137, and 25th in the league for goals against with 187. The club’s powerplay was 27th in the league at 15.4%, and the penalty kill was 21st with a 79.0% effectiveness. So special teams were rough. Columbus has been trending down and I think this past season was a real bottoming out point for them.
The season started out rough with Pierre-Luc Dobois drama, where the rumours swirled around about him wanting out. His on ice performance was terrible and he was repeatedly benched by head coach John Tortorella. Ultimately general manager Jarmo Kekalainen found a trade with the Winnipeg Jets. Dubois and a 2022 3rd were sent to the Jets in exchange for Patrik Laine and the rights to Jack Roslovic. As the powerplay numbers above might suggest, Laine did not in fact have a great season. He only scored 10 goals and 11 helpers in 45 games. Not good enough. Roslovic however seemed to fit in quite well as a centerman and posted a career high in points.
During the season it was apparent that the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs so Columbus dealt David Savard out to Tampa Bay at the deadline in a three way trade with the Detroit Red Wings. Kekalainen earned the team a 2021 1st round pick (which was later flipped), and a 2022 3rd round pick. Team captain Nick Foligno was also shipped out to the Toronto Maple Leafs in another three way trade with the San Jose Sharks. CBJ obtained another 2021 1st rounder which ended up being Corson Ceulemans, and a 2022 4th round pick.
At the end of the season the team parted ways with longtime head coach John Tortorellla and promoted long time assistant Brad Larsen to the role. With Torts out I am excited to see if the offense blossoms or whether Larsen is going to play the same way.
In the Seattle expansion draft Gavin Bayreuther was selected from Columbus. It was a weird pick, and it was made even weirder when Bayreuther didn’t sign there and instead re-signed with Columbus making it a wasted pick for Seattle. So for Columbus it was nice to not lose anyone. However, they did lose a few players in the offseason in a couple moves.
Seth Jones made it known to the team he was not going to be re-signing in Columbus when his contract expired in 2022. Kekalainen must have been trying to shop him all season, but finally made a deal in the offseason. He ended up being shipped to the Chicago Blackhawks to join his brother Caleb. CBJ sent the Blackhawks the 1st round pick they obtained from the Lightning and a 2022 6th round pick.
In exchange the Blue Jackets received young defenseman Adam Boqvist, a the 12th overall pick in the 2021 draft (Cole Sillinger), a 2021 2nd round pick and a 2022 conditional 1st round pick which turns into a 2023 if Chicago wins a draft lottery spot. Time will tell but I love this trade for CBJ. They got a great young defenseman in Boqvist, and traded up 20 spots in the first round, and a mid round 2nd pick all while earning another 1st round pick.
The team also took advantage of a bizarre Carolina Hurricanes off season and got another young defenseman in Jake Bean in exchange for that 2nd round pick from Chicago. The last major move the team made was flipping Cam Atkinson to Philadelphia in a one for one trade for former Blue Jacket Jakub Voracek. I actually like all the off season moves for the team, it seems to be a real reset and a mental shift towards some more offense and bringing in players who can make an impact on scoring.
One more notable thing to mention is actually quite sad. A tragic loss for the franchise and for the hockey world occurred in the summer with the club’s promising young goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passing away.
- Sean Kuraly
- Jakub Voracek
- Adam Boqvist
- Jake Bean
- Gavin Bayreuther
- Gavin Bayreuther
- Cam Atkinson
- Seth Jones
- Mikhail Grigorenko
- Michael Del Zotto
Columbus will have an interesting mix of forwards. Patrik Laine bet on himself and signed a one year extension with the team after a poor first year. With Tortorella gone he may earn more opportunity and some more room to play his game. He will likely play wing on the first line with Jack Roslovic and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand was the team’s leading point scorer last season with 44 points, while Roslovic tied Atkinson with 34. With Atkinson gone, he will look to match and surpass that point total. I’m not sold on Roslovic being a number one centre, so he may move down in the lineup at some point, but stranger things have happened. If they develop some real chemistry that could be a good line.
The team has some veteran players that could challenge for a spot on the top unit. Boone Jenner, who likely will be the next captain of the team, and returning Blue Jacket Jakub Voracek will provide some stability in the lineup. Gustav Nyquist, who didn’t play at all last season due to injury is going to make his return. Does he play top 6 minutes? How will he look in his return? The team also brought in Sean Kuraly from the Boston Bruins as a free agent to jump into the bottom six. The team has an abundance of young players in the mix. Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom , Yegor Chinakhov and Liam Foudy will all be options for new head coach Brad Larsen to throw into the lines. Kevin Stenlund and Eric Robinson also can round out the bottom six. Max Domi is out long term with a shoulder injury but could be injected mid season into the lineup also.
Overall I think the offense depends on how Patrik Laine bounces back. If they can successfully utilize Laine’s shot and gain more success on the powerplay the Blue Jackets could actually be better. However, they will be relying quite heavily on a large mix of young players as well. Regardless, fans of the team will have a lot of things to be excited for in the forward group in this retool year.
The loss of Seth Jones is going to be hard to absorb, but luckily the team received two pretty talented young defenseman in return for him in Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean. Adam Boqvist is slated to play top pairing with Zach Werenski. Boqvist has 29 points in 76 NHL games so far, and is definitely a talented offensive defenseman. He could really benefit from playing or observing a player like Zach Werenski every night, so he can model his game off him. Both of these two will probably see powerplay time as well.
Vlad Gavrikov quietly established himself as a solid defenseman in the league the past two seasons. He’ll play on the second unit with Andrew Peeke.
Jake Bean has limited NHL experience but has absolutely torn up the AHL with 44 points in 70 games in 2018-2019 and 48 points in 59 games in 2019-2020. He’ll provide another option for the powerplay, and if it struggles like last season Bean should really get a chance. His partner will likely be Dean Kukan, who plays a stable consistent game.
Beyond these six the Blue Jackets have some options. Scott Harrington, and Mikko Lehtonen are the likely 7th and 8th defenseman, but they also have Gabriel Carlsson and Gavin Bayreuther. Sure, the loss of Seth Jones, David Savard and surprisingly Michael Del Zotto will be notable in shutdown roles. This will be a young defense, and it will be a little porous, but lets not pretend this team didn’t have an atrocious amount of goals scored against them last season with those guys in the lineup anyway. The young guys are going to have to work hard to develop the defensive side of their games, and in the Metro Division, that’s going to be difficult, but a good opportunity to try to defend some of the best players in the league.
Going into last season I was still a little unsure of who would end up being the 1A goaltender in Columbus. After the season ended it was quite apparent who that is. Elvis Merzlikins. In 28 games he had a 2.77 goals against average and a 0.916 save percentage. Outstanding considering how poor the team was in front. Joonas Korpisalo’s numbers were a little shakier in 33 games with a 3.30 goals against average and a 0.894 save percentage. He played a few more games due to Merzlikins being injured, but looked a lot worse for wear. I still think it’s a solid tandem though and won’t be a weak point for the team.
If Korpisalo does bounce back a bit statistics wise, I could see the team finally trading him after rumours have surrounded him for a couple seasons.
Columbus Blue Jackets 2021-22 Prediction
7th-8th Metro Division
Columbus had a rough season last year, and being back in the Metro Division this season will do them no favours. They’ve been due for a team reset and with Tortorella and most of the big name stars gone now is a good time to do it. Since they missed out on some drafts recently, they would do well to continue this year’s off season strategy of shipping out players for young prospects and picks to further develop the core of the future. With next year’s draft a deep one, it’ll be a good opportunity to season some young players on the team and look to the future.
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