The Columbus Blue Jackets last night extended their remarkable winning streak to 16 games and the team undoubtedly qualifies as one of the league’s biggest surprises of the 2016-17 season. Expected to have a better chance of contending for the top pick in next June’s draft than a playoff spot, the Jackets currently have the best record in the NHL and sit at or near the top in a number of statistical categories. It’s gotten to the point where Michael Arace of The Columbus Dispatch wonders, “who are these guys?”
As Arace notes, the team is getting balanced scoring from throughout the lineup, excellent play between the pipes from Sergei Bobrovsky and have the ability to employ a stifling defense. The common refrain among Blue Jackets players, however, is hard work and a dedication to improving every day is the secret behind their success.
“The key thing is everyone works hard and for the team,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said. “The leaders push the key players, and (it filters down). The most important thing is we work hard for each other.”
The team’s captian, Nick Foligno, who has 33 points in 34 games, concurs.
“We have won by hard work and continuing to play to an identity,” Foligno said. “You don’t win 16 by luck. That is something the guys in here can hang their hat on, but also know it has to continue.”
“We can’t just sit on it now. That’s what I’ve seen as the big difference in here. We’re not a team that is content with that. We want to be a better team. … We know who we are and we’ve played to that for the first 30 or so games, and it has to continue for the next 40.”
Head coach John Tortorella, much-maligned and thought to be on the hot seat following a horrible showing by Team USA’s entry in the World Cup of Hockey, is proving to again be among the top coaches in the game with his deft guidance of the Blue Jackets and should garner plenty of support for the Jack Adams trophy if Columbus can parlay their outstanding start into a playoff berth.
Elsewhere in the Metro Division:
- Not long ago, the Philadelphia Flyers found themselves in the midst of a 10-game winning streak and comfortably residing in a playoff spot in the competitive Metro Division. However, after dropping six of seven with their lone win coming via shootout, the Flyers are clearly scuffling and in need of a spark. As Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post writes, the team is hopeful that winger Matt Read, recently activated from IR, can help get the Flyers back on track. Read returned to the lineup Sunday in the team’s shootout loss to Anaheim and was held off the score sheet while skating on a line centered by Sean Couturier and with Dale Weise on the other side. Head coach Dave Hakstol liked what he saw from his reconstituted third line: “I like that group the other night,” coach Dave Hakstol added. “I thought Dale Weise played, the last two games, really well. In Anaheim he was in on forechecks. He was in and heavy on pucks. That whole line was. I thought that line was effective the other night.” As Isaac notes, the Flyers have roughly 40 games left on their 2016-17 schedule but with other team’s in the division playing well, the team needs to start stringing some wins together.
- Ron Smith, who spent seven seasons coaching in the Carolina Hurricanes minor league system, recently passed away at the age of 72. Luke DeCock of The News & Observer details the impact Smith had not only on the Hurricanes organization, but on the development of video analysis and statistical tracking. Smith helped develop Erik Cole, Eric Staal, Mike Commodore and Craig Adams, players who would be go on to help Carolina win a Stanley Cup in 2005-06. He also tracked scoring chances for and against long before anyone had heard of possession metrics such as Corsi or Fenwick, as DeCock notes. After his coaching career ended, Smith spent another decade as a pro scout for the Hurricanes before retiring from hockey altogether.