It was a franchise year for the Blue Jackets filled with incredible highs and lows. The season started with negotiation worries for the two Russians on the roster. Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky becoming Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the season filled the front pages for the first part of the season. Add to that a rough first few months of on-ice performances and trade talks became inevitable.
2018-19 Record (47-31-4) 98 points
The trade deadline arrived, but rather than sell they added to their roster. Matt Duchene arrived at the cost of prospects and a first-round pick. Ryan Dzingel also joined the squad in exchange for Anthony Duclair and a few second-round draft picks. They also got Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for even more picks. All had two things in common with the two Russians. All were UFAs at the end of the year, and none are members of the Columbus Blue Jackets roster at the time of this writing. It was now or never for the Blue Jackets if they wanted a cup with this core.
While the new acquisitions weren’t an immediate impact, they did eventually find their grove and did help them sneak into the playoffs as the second wildcard. However, that saw them face up against the Tampa Bay Lightning. A team that had 62 wins in the regular season. Therefore, nobody gave the Blue Jackets a chance, but they proved everyone wrong, as they won the series in an epic sweep. This meant advancement to the second round for the first time in franchise history. This was the best the Blue Jackets had ever been and it was now or never to win the cup. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as they were knocked out in six games against the Boston Bruins.
Season MVP – Artemi Panarin
There were a lot of good performers in Columbus this year, but none were even close to the Russian. Panarin was over a point a game in both the regular season and postseason and without his timely goals and fantastic vision, the season would have been much different. He was the most valuable player in a year where he was constantly in the spotlight. Both for his amazing play on the ice but also due to him wanting to test the free agency market. He got his wish and joined the New York Rangers on the 1st of July.
Most Improved Player – Josh Anderson
It was a career year for Josh Anderson, who finally got to show his talents over the course of the entire season. 47 points on a mostly checking line is a fantastic feat, and it shows how versatile of a player he is. He isn’t afraid of throwing his weight around and will do that to great success. Something that became very clear in the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was one of the unsung heroes. He was everywhere and chased down everything, becoming a massive headache for Jon Cooper’s team. They never had a response to his forechecking, and it threw them off their game, which made the sweep possible.
Disappointment – Alexander Wennberg
Two goals in 75 games. That tells the story of the Swede’s struggles this season despite being surrounded by a lot of premier talent. The puck just wouldn’t go for Alexander Wennberg, who started his career in Ohio so well. He seemed to be a sure-fire center in the top six and was handed a major contract at $4.9 million AAV. Since then he has regressed horrendously. Wennberg has to step up for more than 25 points in a season. Especially now that Panarin and Duchene have left a major void to fill in terms of point production for the Blue Jackets.
Highlight of the Year
Current Depth Chart
Top Three Prospects
Liam Foudy – A great playmaking centerman who possesses nice speed and stickhandling, there is little doubt that Foudy is going to become an NHL player. He has been phenomenal with the London Knights where he saw himself score 68 points. He even got some game time in the AHL playoffs where he showed flashes of what the future might hold for the youngster.
Alexandre Texier – What a strange year for Texier. He started the season in the Finnish league at KalPa where he was super dominating. And as the Finnish season ended, he was recalled back to the Blue Jackets and almost immediately was thrown into the deep end. In only his third NHL game, he was up against the Lightning in the playoffs. And the kid held his own and didn’t look out of place. The future is bright for the French hockey superstar and next season could see him in a much bigger role on the team and as a mainstay NHL player.
Veini Vehviläinen – While it seems, Elvis Merzlikins is the first of the top European goalie prospects to get the shot in the NHL, his partner in crime is not far away. Vehviläinen has had an amazing career in Finland, where he has won pretty much anything that can be won both individually and as a team. The best goalie in the Finnish leagues two years in a row and if Merzlikins isn’t performing, the NHL might not be far away for the 22-year-old Finn.
- Gustav Nyquist was acquired in free agency for four years at $5.5 million AAV.
- Artemi Panarin was signed by the New York Rangers
- Matt Duchene was signed by the Nashville Predators
- Sergei Bobrovsky was signed by the Florida Panthers
- Ryan Dzingel was signed by the Carolina Hurricanes
Offensively the Blue Jackets were hampered massively as the 1st of July arrived. Losing Panarin, Duchene and even deep scorer Dzingel has left the Blue Jackets in a tough spot. Where are the goals going to come from? Nyquist isn’t a bad player and will help, but without further assistance, the season could become frustrating. If they wish to stay competitive this upcoming season, a player like Patrick Marleau or the return of Derik Brassard could become an interesting acquisition to support the weight on the younger players like Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexandre Texier.
Sadly for the Blue Jackets, the gamble they made at the deadline has come back to haunt them. While giving them their most memorable and successful year in franchise history, they ended up losing some monumental pieces in free agency. Without players like Panarin and Bobrovsky, the team suddenly seems a lot more ordinary and while Merzlinkins is a decent goalie, he is unproven and inexperienced in North American hockey. Something that’s a bit of a theme for the Blue Jackets next year. A lot of areas need someone to step up, and while some players might have breakout years and individual success, the tough Metropolitan Division could easily become too much to mount a serious playoff push.
Frederik Frandsen is a contributor at Overtime Heroics. You can follow him on Twitter @mr_frans2603
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