The Columbus Blue Jackets finished the 2013 season on a high note, despite missing out on the playoffs. They acquired some big name talent at the trade deadline, in addition to the elite goaltender that they saw rise to the top of the league with a Vezina Trophy win. They entered 2013-14 as a club clearly on the rise.
The Blue Jackets dropped their season opener to the Calgary Flames, a scenario which almost no team in hockey wants to see. Nonetheless, there are still 81 games to go for Columbus this season, and plenty of time for them to make the noise that so many expect them to make this year.
It’s worth questioning, though, what would define a successful year for them. Nobody is calling them any sort of threat to capture a Stanley Cup this season. As impressive as they were at times, and while they may be an up and coming team, there’s no doubt there still a ways away from that type of hype.
Nonetheless, how would we define a successful year for the Blue Jackets? After all, they’re barely even a year removed from being one of the great laughingstocks in all of sports. Now they’re a team to be taken seriously. That’s already an overwhelming positive in such a short period of time.
A successful season would probably begin with a strong followup from Sergei Bobrovsky. Last year’s Vezina winner in his first year as a starter received a bridge deal from the Blue Jackets, and is working toward that long term deal. He’ll first have to prove that he is legitimately elite.
Some of this big name talent will have to come through. Marian Gaborik will have to continue to be an offensive force, and Nathan Horton will have to justify that large contract when he returns from injury. Young talent, including Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner, will have to take steps forward and establish themselves as part of the future. A playoff appearance, at the very least, would help as well.
There are many ways to define a successful season for the Blue Jackets, beyond a championship. They can do a lot of things to show they’re making strides as an organization. How many of the items on that checklist they actually are able to eliminate, however, remains to be seen.