Full of young talent, Blue Jackets look past dismal season
Columbus Blue Jackets' Scott Hartnell, left, celebrates his game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks withteammates Cam Atkinson, left, and Alexander Wennberg, of Sweden, during the overtime period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. The Blue Jackets beat the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was typically blunt on Monday in looking back on the team's dismal season.
''I'm disappointed, I'm mad, frustrated,'' said Tortorella, who was brought in to try to stop the bleeding after the Blue Jackets lost their first seven games of the season. ''I feel like I've let the organization down. I don't think I've done enough to get this straightened out.''
Columbus was considered a playoff contender before the season, but started 0-8 and wildly inconsistent play never allowed the team to gain any traction. The Blue Jackets had to win four out of the last five games of the season just to finish 34-40-8. Only three teams in the NHL were worse. They missed the playoffs for the 13th time in the team's 15 seasons.
Article continues below ...
''We all have to look in the mirror, evaluate ourselves honestly and make sure we find a way to get our start going next season,'' captain Nick Foligno said. ''We have to make sure that we're a team that's consistent, where you know what you're going to get when you're playing the Columbus Blue Jackets. This year, I don't think we knew, I don't think other teams knew, and I don't think fans knew.''
Tortorella, a veteran coach who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, said talent isn't the problem.
''There are some good pieces here,'' he said. ''It is my job to mold those pieces into a team concept, into a structured team concept. I did not do a good enough job. I thought we showed signs of it, but we did not do a good enough job.''
Among the good pieces: 23-year-old left wing Brandon Saad scored 31 goals, and 22-year-old center Boone Jenner scored 30 – the first time two Blue Jackets players contributed 30 goals in a season. Saad came over from Chicago in the off-season, signing a six-year, $36-million contract, and Jenner recently signed an extension that locks him up through the 2017-18 season.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, a franchise player who missed a good chunk of the season with groin injuries, is now signed through 2018-19.
The Blue Jackets traded for 21-year-old defenseman Seth Jones, who was paired with talented 22-year-old defenseman Ryan Murray.
''That's going to help us for a lot of years here,'' team president John Davidson said of the No, 1 defensive pairing.
''Our organizational depth is better than it's ever been in the history of the Blue Jackets,'' Davidson said. ''We feel we're getting very, very close to being one of those very good teams. Are we there? No. Are we where we want to be? No. But are we getting there? Yes, we are.''
For now, most of the Blue Jackets are happy to put the season behind them.
''You put a smile on your face, but the way we played for the most part of this whole year was frustrating for everyone involved,'' said left wing Scott Hartnell, who scored 23 goals and tallied 49 points. ''So you take some time to regroup, take some time off, get physically ready, get mentally recharged and come into camp here and have a good one.''