Why the hell should anyone care about the Columbus Blue Jackets? It’s a question that has been asked often throughout the team’s short history.
They share a city with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and while it isn’t often a professional sports franchise is second fiddle to a college, that’s often been the case in Columbus. However, while the city will always support the Buckeyes, many are beginning to find out that it isn’t just a one sport town. Thirteen wins in a row will tend to do that to a team.
The streak the Blue Jackets are on right now is the longest since 2013, when the Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins won 15 straight. Here’s how it compares to other NHL streaks:
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 28, 2016
Everything has been stacked against this team since the beginning of the year. The team picked third overall in the NHL draft this past year (where the top two players were highly hyped), and their coach John Tortorella was a laughing stock after Team USA’s terrible performance in the World Cup of Hockey.
It really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
A lot of it can be credited to goalie and former Vezina Trophy winner (2012-13) Sergei Bobrovsky, who has a .934 save percentage on the season and a .940 mark during the streak. Bobrovsky has been inconsistent from year to year, but it seems like he has finally found his groove. Where the team goes, Bobrovsky goes with them, and he’s proving to be more than just a frequent NHL punchline.
As for Tortorella, he had been known as an old stodgy coach that was unwilling to change and constantly emphasized backchecking and defense over offense. Now, it looks like he has gotten with the times and embraced the new high-tempo NHL. He has five players currently in the top forty in scoring this year. Some say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but he may end up being the exception.
The most notable scorer of the bunch is former first round draft pick Sam Gagner, who bounced from club to club after being deemed replaceable on a putrid Edmonton Oilers team. Gagner played for the Philadelphia Flyers last year and only scored 16 points on the season, but he’s about to double that output while only being a third of the way done through the season. The Blue Jackets were able to sign him this past offseason to a near league-minimum contract of $650,000 for the year, which is looking pretty good around now.
A common refrain around media is the term sustainability. Can the Jackets continue what they are doing? Many players are having career years and their goaltender is playing like his former self, not like the guy he’s been in more recent seasons. It makes sense to not believe in them; they’re the ugly stepchild of the NHL, having not won a playoff series in their entire history as a franchise (since 2000). Despite this streak, there are still some issues, and they may not be Stanley Cup-bound just yet. Don’t tell anyone on the team though, as they are currently one of the youngest squads in the league and certainly the hottest. It may be a mix of youthful ignorance and some trailblazing arrogance, but it looks like they may have something special here.
Is it enough for some Buckeye fans to buy in? After three consecutive sellouts, it would seem so. Even checking out Stubhub recently, you’ll see tickets to Nationwide Arena costing more than tickets to the Fiesta Bowl. If they keep it up we may see less scarlet and more union blue. Who could have seen that coming?