It’s amazing how quickly things can change in the National Hockey League. Since breaking into the league in 2000, the Blue Jackets have made the post-season just twice. Both those playoff appearances ended in the opening round, with the Blue Jackets combining for just two victories. Following another embarrassing display in 2016, the Blue Jackets retooled and shocked the hockey world a year later — finishing the franchise’s first 50-win season. So what changed in such a short amount a time?
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a Vezina Trophy-worthy goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky, who was one of the main reasons the Blue Jackets went from Metropolitan Division basement dwellers to Stanley Cup contenders.
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The transformation for the Blue Jackets has been spectacular to watch.
Let’s start up front where forward Cam Atkinson found another offensive gear. Atkinson recorded his first career 30-goal season and led the club in that department throughout the 2016-17 campaign. Atkinson 60-plus point season also led the Blue Jackets, who challenged for top spot in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
Offensive from the back end is always a bonus and the Blue Jackets certainly received that from budding star Zach Werenski — the rookie defenseman who led all Columbus blue-liners in scoring during the 2016-17 season.
As good as the Blue Jackets are offensively, they’re equally impressive in their own zone. Along with Werenski, the Blue Jackets are privileged to have another star defenseman in Seth Jones, who put up an impressive plus/minus rating in 2017.
The true reason the Blue Jackets have been able to move into Stanley Cup contention is the play of Sergei Bobrovsky — a former Vezina Trophy recipient who will definitely capture a couple more before his career is over. Bobrovsky led the league in wins, goals against average as well as save percentage during the 2016-17 season.
How close are the Blue Jackets from being legitimate Cup contenders?
Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has done a tremendous job building this roster without breaking the bank on the salary cap. But the GM must still find a top centre to take the load of players such as Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky.
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