26. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in at the trade deadline. Like a gambler, they saw a hand they loved and pushed in all their chips. You have to admire them for that. Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets fell short of their goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
They went all-in because they knew they were probably going to lose their two best players – Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. As expected, the Blue Jackets lost both, with the former heading to the New York Rangers and the latter heading to the Florida Panthers.
The Blue Jackets are left with a team with zero elite players. Seth Jones is darn close to it, but I wouldn’t call him elite. The Blue Jackets are going to be defined by their defense. Columbus has a surprisingly effective blueline led by Jones and Zach Werenski.
However, the biggest question mark is their goaltending. Joonas Korpisalo has had success in a very small sample size as a starter, but he hasn’t done much in the past two seasons to suggest he can be a starter. Elvis Merzlikins has posted impressive numbers overseas, but obviously, it’s hard to nail down what the Blue Jackets should expect from him.
In a tough Metropolitan Division where every team has at least one star, it’s going to be hard for Columbus to compete. But maybe that’s the kind of team head coach John Tortorella can thrive with.