It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Columbus Blue Jackets have truly had a tale of two stories the past four months. They went from a shocking sweep of the historic Tampa Bay Lightning and giving the Boston Bruins a run for their money to losing four key free agents, seemingly floundering in the offseason. Not only did Artemi Panarin, arguably the best skater to ever don a Blue Jackets jersey, leave, but the heart and soul of the franchise, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, did as well. So where do they turn now?
Many analysts, fans and teams are simply writing the Blue Jackets off next season, but the future is still young and filled with talent. Yes, Bobrovsky is a huge loss, but the changing of the guards to Elvis Merzlikins represents a youthful goaltending prospect that fans can get excited about. Even here, the Cleveland Monsters, the minor league affiliate to the Blue Jackets, have been grooming players like speed demon Liam Foudy and all around player Alexandre Texier. It is the hope that these youngsters can start taking steps into the NHL, bolstered by the Blue Jackets veterans.
It is worthwhile to note that while the free agency losses were significant, the Blue Jackets had their best regular season in 2016-17, a year before Panarin even arrived. The rest of the squad from that year is largely still on the team. Perhaps the Blue Jackets get surprising results from their young goaltenders in a Jordan-Binnington type of way. Maybe one of their late-round picks from recent years will turn out to be a gem. Regardless, you cannot write the Blue Jackets off this year, especially considering their recent success.