On a night where several teams disappointed at home — Toronto, Dallas and Montreal specifically — the Columbus Blue Jackets had issues of their own Tuesday evening, dropping a 5-0 decision to Detroit at Nationwide.
This one, though, featured a few messages being sent.
Ryan Johnansen and Scott Hartnell were both benched — Johansen didn’t play the final 15:19, Hartnell the final 9:44 — for undisciplined third-period penalties that turned a 2-0 deficit into a five-goal drubbing, a result that left head coach Todd Richards irate.
“It was a 2-0 game and we were okay,” Richards said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “We weren’t great. It’s a 2-0 game, we’re in it. And then we self-destructed in the third period.”
The loss left Columbus with just 13 points through 18 games this year, putting it on pace for 59 this season — far, far short of the 96 defenseman James Wisnewski figured the club would need to make the playoffs for the second straight year.
What was perhaps most disturbing about Tuesday’s loss is the Blue Jackets looked ready to make a run. But after winning consecutive games for just the second time this season — against Philly and San Jose — the team suffered its most lopsided defeat, and was shutout for the first time this season.
Now make no mistake, Columbus’ health woes this season are legit, and well-documented. The club lost 118 man games to injury through the first 17 games and is still without the likes of Nathan Horton, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin, Mark Letestu and Cody Goloubef. It’s definitely an issue.
In response to that, GM Jarmo Keklainen has perhaps decided that enough’s enough. He’s made a pair of moves in the last four days, first trading for veteran d-man Jordan Leopold, then picking up ex-Dallas rearguard Kevin Connauton off waivers.
If one had to guess, more moves could be coming. Something needs to change and the club isn’t about to shake things up by firing head coach Todd Richards — having just signed a contract extension in May — so making roster moves could be the play. Columbus currently has nearly $7 million in space, per CapGeek, and could place Horton on LTIR to recoup his $5.3 million cap hit.
“You have to try to use every possible way you can keep the team competitive when you have this many injuries,” Kekalainen said, per the Dispatch.