Can the Blue Jackets Make a Push for the Playoffs?

Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Columbus Blue Jackets have exceeded expectations this season, as they currently sit in tenth place in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus owns a 23-22-1 record, and with a .511 point percentage, the Jackets are one of the few teams currently outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture that has a chance to sneak in.

Let’s be very clear here by noting that any team in the East that is hoping to crash the postseason party is facing long odds, as the top teams in the conference have put a lot of distance between themselves and those clubs that are chasing them.

However, it seems naive to assume that the eight we have now are the eight that we’ll have when the playoffs arrive, and by following that logic, someone has to make things interesting. Could that someone be the Blue Jackets?

Can the Blue Jackets contend for a playoff spot?

Coming into this season, I thought the Jackets would be the last-place team in the Metro, so the fact that they have hung around as one of the first two teams out has come as a surprise to me. Accordingly, I don’t believe that they will get in, but at this point, it is difficult to say that they can’t.

Columbus has won five of its past six games, including a perfect 3-0 start to February. One of those wins this month was a 5-4 victory over the Washington Capitals, a team that holds one of the wild card spots that the Blue Jackets are trying to hunt down.

Right now, the Columbus/Washington race is the only one that could truly be interesting. The Caps are 6-9-2 in 2022, and while they currently own the top wild card position, the poor play in D.C. and the four games in hand for the Boston Bruins could be enough to erase Washington’s four-point lead over the B’s.

If that happens, the Capitals would become the last team in, with the Blue Jackets needing to jump only the Caps and Detroit Red Wings to climb into the playoff picture. Entering play on Monday, CBJ has three games in hand over the Red Wings (trailing by only three points) and four in hand over the Capitals (14 points back).

Clearly, the Jackets could not catch the Caps by winning all of those games in hand, but the point gap would shrink to six points, which is very manageable. In terms of head-to-head action, these division rivals have one game remaining this season, which could be very impactful.

What could get the Jackets into the playoffs would be the addition of a superstar forward and some upgrades on defense. Columbus has the third-worst defense in the NHL, but offensively, the team has received contributions from a variety of players, it just lacks a star or two to really lead the way.

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Again, I highly doubt that Columbus can get in, but we’ve seen this team take an aggressive trade deadline approach before, and if it does so again, it could be one of the few teams with a chance to make things interesting in the East.