The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season hasn’t been a disaster so far. They remain just five points shy of a playoff spot and they aren’t in the midst of a lengthy losing streak.
At the same time, this is a team that has turned failing to make the playoffs into a tradition. A hot start in the second half of the 2013 campaign put them a hair away from disrupting that and the hope was at least some of that momentum would carry into the current campaign.
It has’t. Even when they win decisively, as they did in Toronto on Monday, they are unable to build on it and so far that’s been their greatest crime. They aren’t consistently horrendous, they aren’t consistently anything, and they’ve averaged out to be something slightly less than nothing special.
“You can’t say we’re not trying,” defenseman James Wisniewski remarked to the Columbus Dispatch after their 4-0 loss to Nashville. He pointed to their harsh road schedule of late as part of the problem, which is an argument that would resonate more if they weren’t also 4-7-1 at home.
“Right now, we’re a little banged up,” Wisniewski added.
That certainly can’t be ignored. The team is without forwards Brandon Dubinsky (foot) and Marian Gaborik (knee) right now. They’re also still waiting on Nathan Horton (shoulder) to make his Blue Jackets’ debut.
Still, their issue might not be that simple.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards thinks that part of the problem could be a lack of leadership combined with the team’s relative youth. After all, they haven’t had a captain since Rick Nash left town. Even then though, Richards cautioned that there isn’t one single cause to the Blue Jackets’ struggles.
It certainly doesn’t help that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been just as inconsistent as the rest of the squad. He was a big part of the Blue Jackets’ rise last season, but he has just a 2.85 GAA and .905 save percentage in 21 starts this season.
For what it’s worth, Bobrovsky doesn’t want to see his team making excuses for their poor play. That includes any suggestions that their recent rough schedule is to blame.
“We just didn’t have that extra jam, that extra gear that separates us from being a pain to play against and a team that is a half-step away,” Wisniewski said.
Perhaps that’s something they’ll get as the season progresses. Maybe that leadership, that extra something, will be Horton’s role when he’s ready to join his teammates on the ice.
Otherwise, it will be just another season, which for Columbus is a very bad thing.