(Pre-pandemic file photo taken by Anthony DiCerbo)
Just three months ago, the NHL wrapped up their 2019-2020 season, crowning the Tampa Bay Lightning as the champions.
Now, the players are hitting the ice once again as the shortened 2020-2021 season is already underway.
In an attempt to reduce traveling among the teams, the NHL has realigned their divisions for this strange season. Longtime Blue Jackets fans will recognize many of their new division rivals as the Jackets move back to the central division where they spent the first years of their existence.
The Blue Jackets find themselves in a new division that contains old rivals in teams like the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, and the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as both teams from this past year’s Stanley Cup Finals in the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rounding out the division is the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
By season’s end, the Jackets will know these opponents quite well because they play each team a total of eight times in two-game sets, making up their fifty-six game schedule.
Three series into this new season, it has already been an eventful one for the Jackets. They currently sit with two wins, two losses, and two regulation losses. Good enough for the second-place spot in the central division early in the season.
The Jackets opened their season on the road in Nashville against the Predators. It wasn’t the hottest of starts for the Jackets, who lost both games and only scored a combined three goals.
The NHL schedule does not give much time to ponder mistakes though, and the Jackets moved on to their second series of the young season, taking on the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit.
This is where the Jackets got their first taste of success, getting their first win of the season off of a strong performance by goalie Joonas Korpisalo. In game two of the series, the Jackets managed to pick up a point, but ultimately lost the close game in overtime.
Then for the first time this season, the Jackets shifted back to Columbus, where they would host the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. As expected the first game was a close one between the budding rivals, and the Jackets picked up only one point with the overtime loss. The second game of the series was much more decisive, as the Jackets put up five goals and grabbed the 5-2 win.
Their early-season record has been largely overshadowed by the drama involving Pierre Luc-Dubois. Dubois, who had previously requested a trade, was clearly not playing his best hockey and Coach John Tortorella decided that he had seen enough from the disgruntled forward. He was ultimately benched for the majority of the Jackets’ 3-2 overtime loss to Tampa Bay.
This drama culminated in a blockbuster trade that saw all-star forward Patrik Laine and Columbus native Jack Rosolovic being traded to the Jackets from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for Pierre Luc-Dubois and a draft pick.
Even though it is still early in this strange season, it has already been a busy one for the Columbus Blue Jackets. After suffering from a slow start, the Jackets have rebounded and look to be real contenders in the newly formed Central Division, and beyond.