The Columbus Blue Jackets entered the 2016 regular season as a team and a franchise that frankly wasn’t respected by the rest of the league.
In mid March it was Head Coach John Tortorella who summed up what his players were hoping to accomplish:
It’s a group…that has really bought into…trying to be more businesslike as the season started…Our whole mantra at the beginning of the year was being better pros, being businessmen and just trying to gain respect in the league because we had zero going into this season. Zero.
Nobody saw what was coming a season ago and Tortorella can’t get enough credit for what he’s done.
Fast forward to now.
After setting a franchise record with 108 points in the regular season, it’s this team that is currently focused on not only making the playoffs, but advancing past the first round for the first time.
In order to do so the Blue Jackets made news by trading Brandon Saad to the Chicago Blackhawks for Artemi Panarin (other pieces were involved as well, but Panarin and Saad were the headliners).
In an interview on NHL Tonight it was CBJ General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen who described Panarin as a player
Who can score goals at key times.
As well as
A guy who fits well in our power play.
The Columbus Blue Jackets struggled mightily on the power play down the stretch (scoring on only one of 24 power-play opportunities in their final 14 regular-season games) and were held to a single goal in each of their first two playoff games against the Pittsburgh Penguins (lost Game 1 by a final score of 3-1 and Game 2 by a final score of 4-1).
The CBJ still are in the Metropolitan Division, which means there’s no avoiding the Washington Capitals and/or Pittsburgh Penguins.
With that being said, at least one thing’s for sure…
The expectations for the Columbus Blue Jackets entering 2017 are higher than ever.