By Sam Ingro
When the Blue Jackets dealt disgruntled captain Rick Nash to the New York Rangers, not many complained about the haul of promising players they received in return. The team was given a pair of second rounders in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, and a first-round defenseman in Tim Erixon.
In their defense, Dubinsky and Anisimov have been solid role players, but one would hope their production picks up to make up for the departure of Nash’s perennial 30-plus goal seasons. Currently, Anisimov is on pace for 16 goals and four assists, while Dubinsky is looking at zero goals and 20 assists. Since 10 goals in a season is his career low, it is incredibly unlikely that Dubinsky gets shut out this season, but it does paint a picture of the offensive struggles of the pair through the first 12 games.
With a record of 3-7-2, the Blue Jackets issues have been apparent, but no more than against last night’s meeting with the Edmonton Oilers. The Blue Jackets teed off on the Oilers, outshooting them 40-14, but still managed to lose by a score of 3-1. So what was the problem, an inspired performance from goaltender Devan Dubnyk?
Quite simply, no. While nobody can take away from the sterling performance of Dubnyk, the team’s struggles fall on the simple mistakes that will drive a coach downright crazy.
“We probably should have had 10 goals tonight,” said Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. “You only score one goal, you’re not going to win many hockey games. That’s the most frustrating part, is the offense giving ourselves a chance to win. You’re probably going to have to score three, four goals every night to win. Otherwise, our poor goalies have to pitch a shutout every night. That’s just unrealistic to ask.”
The shot count and chances were there, but the quality of shots were not. The Oilers played a sloppy game for 60 minutes and had a difficult time getting the puck away from Columbus. The Oilers’ issues led to a lot of shots on goal by the Jackets, but Johnson said it himself, there should have been 10 goals scored. The amount of missed opportunities would require a calculator to keep a tally of. So, why can’t Columbus seem to cash in when they need to?
It goes back to Nash and the current lack of leadership on the ice. The franchise had brief hopes that Dubinsky could be that guy, but he has done nothing this season to reward them for that notion. Frankly, the team may not have a player on the roster capable of being that player moving forward. Fortunately, the team has three picks in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft this year to hopefully solve that problem.
Featuring a crop of scorers like Nathan MacKinnon, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan set to go off the board in the Top 10, any of the four would be a welcome addition to the team. What Columbus needs is a pure scorer, someone that can put the team on his shoulders and make a play happen when they need it most.
There is a great foundation in place, but even the most hardcore of Columbus fans are not expecting this current team to make the 2013 NHL Playoffs, whether they admit it or not. What the team needs to do the duration of the season is build chemistry, develop their talent and make strides back to NHL relevance. With team president and franchise-building mastermind John Davidson running the show, it’s a matter of time before the Blue Jackets are back on top, but miracles don’t happen overnight.