It was a long and often painful journey, but Columbus has finally joined the 28 other teams that have won a playoff game (leaving the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets’ franchise in the cold). That accomplishment shouldn’t be belittled given how far the Blue Jackets had to come over the last couple of seasons to reach this point, but it’s also not cause for contentment.
Making the playoffs is great, but players don’t grow up dreaming about winning a first round game and fans don’t long for the day their team will last six contests before bowing out of the postseason.
“The goal isn’t just to make the playoffs here,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson asserted, per the team’s website. “Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. There were good intentions here in the past, but we go into every game now with the expectation to win. We expect to play well, and we expect to achieve success.”
Blue Jackets president John Davidson was equally optimistic during an interview in July. He pointed to Nathan Horton as a potential difference maker after the former Boston Bruins playoff hero was forced to miss most of the 2013-14 campaign and all of the postseason because of shoulder and abdominal problems.
More importantly, Columbus has a promising young core that’s led by forward Ryan Johansen and blueliner Ryan Murray. They also have a solid defense and a strong goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky.
Their offense was nothing special last season, but if Horton and their primary new addition, Scott Hartnell, have solid seasons and 21-year-old Boone Jenner is able to step up in his sophomore campaign, then that might change.
Clearly the Blue Jackets still have some significant question marks and on paper they don’t look like a Stanley Cup contender yet, but the bar has been raised. We’ll find out soon enough how they respond.