The Blue Jackets gave it their all but despite an incredible 19-5-5 run fell just short of making the playoffs. A bittersweet end to a season that began with a lockout and a horrible start then some real change and confidence.
I'm convinced this team, this franchise, is no longer the laughingstock of the league thanks to the efforts of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen. I'm convinced this team has a head coach in Todd Richards who knows how to motivate talent and get wins out of them.
What do they need now? Consistency. One or two more goal scorers. More depth. A locked in goaltender.
I think the consistency is going to be there. This team has definitely learned not to lose and on that final six game road trip in which they went 5-1, they learned how to win. I'm not convinced Gaborik is going to be the team's long term solution for a lead scorer and I'm not sure if Atkinson or Anisimov are ready to take on that role so at least more more guy who can score is needed via free agency or trade.
Sergei Bobrovsky was the team's MVP, for certain. The Blue Jackets would not be where they are now without his efforts in net. He's a restricted free agent. Which means if he signs elsewhere the team would get compensation in extra draft picks from the league. I think he can write his own contract and the team will pay him. I just hope he's more than a one season wonder. I think he will be a very good goaltender for years. They're also going to have to address the backup situation.
The Blue Jackets do have three first round picks in the upcoming draft, this will definitely help franchise depth. They also have prospects Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner waiting to compete for a position in the lineup. And who knows if the next Darren Prout will come into play next season? Prout came out of a taxicab in Chicago, got dressed and made an immediate impact on the back line. Does the team have anyone else in the minors waiting to shock?
There are cases to be made that the team has finally established itself as a contender, now they need to prove it with wins on the ice and hockey in Columbus in May of 2014.