Blue Jackets eliminated, could not overcome Werenski injury, slow start

Blue Jackets eliminated, could not overcome Werenski injury, slow start

Blue Jackets eliminated, could not overcome Werenski injury, slow start

The Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season.

Columbus (21-40-7) was eliminated from contention when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks, 7-4 on Friday .

After qualifying for the postseason four straight seasons from 2017-20, the Blue Jackets finished 28th in the NHL standings in 2021 and 21st last season. They are last in the standings this season.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2022-23 season for the Blue Jackets and why things could be better next season.

The skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Gavin Bayreuther, D; Michael Hutchinson, G

Potential restricted free agents: Alexandre Texier, F; Mathieu Olivier, F; Lane Pederson, F

Potential 2023 NHL Draft picks: nine

What went wrong

Slow start: The Blue Jackets came in this season with high expectations after signing Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year contract. They began the season 0-3-0 and 3-9-0 and never recovered. Columbus has won consecutive games just four times all season and never more than two straight.

Werenski among numerous injuries: Columbus has lost more man games to injury this season than any other team. Zach Werenski, the anchor on defense and the power play, has missed 55 games after having shoulder surgery in November. Forward Justin Danforth (torn labrum) has missed 62 games and defenseman Jake Bean (shoulder) has missed 53 games.

Goaltending issues: Elvis Merzlikins (26 games) and Joonas Korpisalo (26 games) have started the bulk of games for Columbus. They, along with Daniil Tarasov and Michael Hutchinson (20 combined games) have allowed 3.81 goals per game for the Blue Jackets, second-worst in the NHL. Korpisalo was traded to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline and Merzlikins has had a forgettable season; his 4.10 goals-against average ranks last and .880 save percentage sixth-worst among the 75 goalies to play at least 10 games this season.  

Reasons for optimism

Gaudreau, Laine locked up: Johnny Gaudreau is signed for six more seasons and Patrik Laine for three more. They are Columbus’ top two scorers, Gaudreau with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists) and Laine with 48 (22 goals, 26 assists).

Video: [email protected]: Gaudreau, Laine combine for the OT winner

Draft stock: Columbus has nine picks in the 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft, including two in the first round and seven in the first four rounds. If they land the top pick and add forward Connor Bedard, that will boost expectations even more after a trying season.

Little roster turnover: The Blue Jackets have a majority of their roster signed through next season with only six players not signed beyond 2022-23, including three regulars when healthy (Mathieu Olivier, Gavin Bayreuther, Alexandre Texier). Assuming they aren’t ravaged with injuries like they were this season, the chemistry should be there.

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