Inconsistency from Blue Jackets is perplexing
The inconsistent play of the Blue Jackets this season, seven months removed from a 19-5-5 run to close out the 2013 NHL season, is perplexing to many.
With largely the same group of players, there seems to be a “disconnect” in trying to string together multiple games playing “Blue Jacket hockey”. Five days ago, they played arguably their best game this season in a 4-1 win in Ottawa. Forty-eight hours later, they were shellacked by Edmonton to the tune of 7 goals against. Wednesday, they got back to playing “their” game and beat Calgary 2-1 OT. The only people who have the answer are the guys in the room.
Nick Foligno called the loss to the Oilers “disgusting”, and said “This ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ thing that we’re doing has got to stop.” It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for the team and fans, alike. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he wrote “The less I understand of this farrago, the less I was in a position to judge of its importance.” In comparing the teams play to that of the characters in this story, Foligno hit the proverbial nail on the head.
The question is, why can’t they string together good, 60 minute games? The players that need to step up, for the most part, have not done so to this point. Injuries have hurt the team, but not decimated it. Boone Jenner made his return last Sunday against Ottawa. Matt Calvert, out since October 10 with an abdominal injury, is slated to return tonight versus Vancouver. Marian Gaborik is out for the next 3-5 weeks with a sprained knee. Off-season free agent acquisition Nathan Horton is on schedule to return around the first of the year, after having surgery this past summer.
Nathan Horton skated in his gear for the first time two weeks ago. He’s getting closer to his return to the lineup. He also knows about inconsistent play, having been a member of the Florida Panthers. “I’m not playing, but I feel like I’m a part of it”, he said. “We’re obviously going through a tough stretch right now. I think it’s going to make us stronger. We’ve just got to be a little more desperate. We’ve got the players to do it.”
Some may say that this inconsistent play is a manifestation of not having a Captain on the team. Hogwash, I say. There are vocal leaders within the room, with Brandon Dubinsky not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk. Is a veteran voice missing? Yes, but you play with the cards dealt to you. “Stepping up” applies to not only how they play on the ice, but off it, as well. Since being traded from the NY Rangers, he’s taken ownership and shown accountability for the team. Maybe it’s time to give Dubinsky the “C”.
Columbus returns to action tonight against the Vancouver Canucks in Rogers Arena. They are 2-1 on this Canadian road trip, while the Canucks are in the midst of a 5 game losing streak. With 4 of a possible 6 points earned already, can the Blue Jackets make it 6 of 8 points tonight? Or will “Mr. Hyde” rear his ugly head, once again? The puck drops at 10 p.m. (ET).
• All indications are that forward Matt Calvert will make his return to the lineup tonight versus the Canucks. Calvert was activated off Injured Reserve yesterday after being sidelined since October 10 with an abdominal injury. In the three games he played before being injured, he went 0-0-0, +/- of +1. He forechecks tenaciously and his speed will be a welcome addition to the lineup. With Calvert drawing back in, expect recent call-up Jack Skille to be a healthy scratch.
• Brandon Dubinsky suffered a bruised foot in the loss to Edmonton on Tuesday. He’s been day-to-day since that time. Head coach Todd Richards will see how Dubinsky does in the morning skate today before making a decision on whether he will dress for tonight’s tilt.
• Michael Chaput has quietly gone about his job since being called up from the Springfield Falcons. In 12 games he’s 0-0-0, +/- of -1. He brings speed and energy to the bottom six of the forward corps and has earned more responsibility with each passing game. “I get put in these positions and just try to play my game and gain some trust from the coach”, he said. “He (Richards) feels that he can put me out there and has confidence in me. I feel more and more comfortable as I play more games here, definitely.”
• Having played in all 22 games this season, it’s easy to forget that defenseman Ryan Murray is in his rookie season. He’s 2-2-4, and a +2 to this point of the season. He knows full well the importance of every game. “It’s really serious”, he said. “We know that every game, from here on out, is very important from the hole that we’ve dug for ourselves. I think there’s a whole new level of urgency and a whole new level of desperation for us.”