The Columbus Blue Jackets, fresh off their 16-game winning streak, are in the unusual position of being considered among the best teams in the NHL. They currently own the league’s best record at 27-6-4 and currently rank among the top teams in several statistical categories. With the Jackets taking an early lead at home against the New York Rangers tonight, it’s perhaps interesting to note how much of an impact two former Blue Shirts have had on the fortunes of Columbus this season, argues Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post.
Former Ranger net minder and television analyst John Davidson took over as President of the Blue Jackets back in 2012 and has overseen the acquisition of much of the current roster. One of his first moves was to bring in the team’s GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, with whom Davidson worked while both were in the Blues organization. Kekalainen and his staff are responsible for drafting Alexander Wennberg and Zach Werenski, among others, and have orchestrated trades for Brandon Saad and Seth Jones.
Perhaps the biggest move Davidson and the Jackets have made was hiring head coach John Tortorella, who spent parts of five seasons behind the bench in New York and who led the Rangers to the playoffs four times and a berth in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final. Tortorella has rebuilt his reputation as one of the league’s top coaches and according to Davidson, Torts has pushed the players and adds “the players are also allowed to not only play the game hard, play the game in the way it should be played, but also have fun doing it. And Torts has done all that stuff.”
It remains to be seen just how far the Jackets will go this season. They certainly look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender at this point and as the second youngest team in the league, they should remain one of the league’s best for the foreseeable future. Much of the credit for their success is owed to two men who used to be members of one of their Metro division rivals.
Elsewhere in New York hockey:
- Unlike Columbus, the New York Islanders have underachieved and unless they get things turned around, they’ll be in danger of missing the playoffs. Their struggles this season may also have a negative affect on star center John Tavares’ desire to remain with the Islanders beyond the term of his current contract. Tavares has one more season left on his deal and it would be a crushing blow if he were to leave the team after the 2017-18 campaign. However, while things appear bleak today, the team does have hope for the future as Arthur Staple of Newsday writes. Even though they aren’t quite NHL-ready, Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle are getting a thorough education playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL and will soon be ready to contribute for the big club. The talented youngsters are learning what it takes to be pros from former NHL defenseman and Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson and while there is still work to be done their skill is undeniable.
- Pavel Buchnevich, who was assigned to Hartford on the AHL yesterday, appeared in the Wolf Pack’s game last night and tallied a power play goal in his first game action in nearly eight weeks. More importantly for Buchnevich and the Rangers, Buchnevich reported no pain after the game, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. While the Wolf Pack return to the ice tonight but Buchnevich will not be joining them. Brooks reports that he won’t participate in back-to-back games but is expected to be in the lineup again for the third game of the weekend set, barring any complications of course.