The Columbus Blue Jackets have had some rough times recently. Last season saw them absolutely crater and finish in the bottom half of the league. This is in spite of their marquee signing of Johnny Gaudreau in NHL Free Agency. Unfortunately, things haven't gotten off to the greatest start this summer given the Mike Babcock drama.
That said, players are excited to have Pascal Vincent in charge now. And the hope is that last year can be put behind them. Columbus may not seem like contenders to outside fans, but the team wants to be more competitive this season. That shows with some of their offseason moves, like the trade for Ivan Provorov.
The Blue Jackets will begin their 2023-24 NHL season facing the Philadelphia Flyers at home on October 12. Before the puck drops on that game, though, here are three bold Columbus Blue Jackets predictions for the upcoming season.
Laine scores 40
Patrik Laine has not scored 40 goals in a season since the 2017-18 season. He helped the Winnipeg Jets make the Western Conference Final, where they ran into a historic Vegas Golden Knights team playing their inaugural season. Since then, the Finnish sniper hasn't had the greatest luck.
He scored 30 goals in the 2018-19 season, but has not scored more than 30 since then. Columbus should be a much better team this year than last. As a result, expect the 25-year-old to improve his goal-scoring output in a major way.
Laine should score 40 goals for the first time since 2017-18 season. He will receive a lot of time on the team's power play unit, and he could move around in the top six given his potential switch to center. The 27-year-old has every opportunity to return to form, and he should do so in 2023-24.
Gaudreau challenges records
Gaudreau certainly wasn't bad last season. He scored 21 goals and 74 points in his debut campaign with the Blue Jackets. It's certainly not what the team expected from him. After all, he joined Columbus coming off a 115-point season with the Calgary Flames. That said, he should rebound in 2023-24.
Now, I do want to temper expectations a bit. I am not claiming Gaudreau will score 100 points this upcoming season. No player in Blue Jackets history has scored 100 points in a single season. And I don't believe the supporting cast around Gaudreau is good enough for him to reach the century mark.
However, I do believe he will challenge a few franchise records. “Johnny Hockey” already challenged the franchise single-season assist record last year, and he should do so again in 2023-24. Furthermore, the Blue Jackets star certainly could challenge the team's single-season points record, which stands at 87.
Most improved team
The Blue Jackets fell well below expectations in 2022-23. In fact, they finished with one of the lowest point totals in the entire league with 59. For a team with playoff expectations, that finish was simply inexcusable. Thankfully, they should not only be better, but they should improve more than any team in the league.
The Blue Jackets should receive much better coaching from Pascal Vincent. And while the Mike Babcock drama is unfortunate, I expect this team to quickly move past it. The players will quickly move past it and focus on their performance on the ice.
Columbus certainly did themselves no favors last year. But they are way more talented than last season's performance indicates. Don't be surprised if this team sees a 30-point improvement from 2022-23 to 2023-24.