Last July I interviewed Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and was fascinated by the overwhelming confidence he had that his team was much stronger than it showed in 2015-16.
Despite the team’s 27th-place finish, Kekalainen seemed sure the Blue Jackets would contend in 2016-17.
I should have listened to him.
Picking the Blue Jackets to finish last in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points was the worst of some embarrassingly poor decisions in my preseason projections.
As Columbus sits today with 106 points, it is easy to wonder what delusional influence convinced me to pick the Blue Jackets to be one of the league’s worst teams.
I thought the Blue Jackets would be the team that took the most steps forward and be in the playoffs the season before. They didn’t live up to expectations and betrayed my trust.
I thought the Metropolitan Division would be stronger — I was right about that — and the balance of power had shifted to the Eastern Conference. It was going to be more challenging to make the playoffs in the East.
I thought they didn’t have a true No. 1 center. It didn’t feel as if the Blue Jackets had done enough in the offseason. I could not have been more wrong. Even though I touted Zach Werenski as a rookie to watch, I didn’t foresee the game-changing impact he would have. Alexander Wennberg exceeded expectations. I never expected Sam Gagner to be a 49-point scorer. Sergei Bobrovsky’s return to Vezina Trophy-caliber form also helped considerably.
Coach John Tortorella pushed all of the right buttons this season to make this team purr like…
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