Dateline: May 2021. The Columbus Blue Jackets were putting the finishing touches on a disappointing season. Although it was the last game of the season against the Detroit Red Wings, it was still a big game for the Blue Jackets.
They wanted to win in what was expected to be John Tortorella’s final game in Columbus. With just 21 seconds left in overtime, Max Domi scored to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 win. Based on Tortorella’s reaction as he headed off the ice, you knew it was the end of his era and the start of a new one.
But what would it be the start of? Was a full blown rebuild coming? Or would it be something else? The Blue Jackets went into the offseason knowing things were going to change. But instead of it being a rebuild, it was deemed a reset. Let’s set the scene for you and then look at the progress of that reset to date.
Setting the Scene
All eyes of the hockey world were watching the Blue Jackets for one big storyline. Was that overtime game the last game in the Blue Jackets’ career of Seth Jones?
Word came out soon after that Jones was not interested in signing a long-term deal in Columbus and would be heading to free agency after the 2021-22 season. Given that Jones would only accept a deal to a couple of places, it put the Blue Jackets in a bind. They had to try to get the most for this player knowing the market was extremely limited.
If this reset was going to get off the ground flying, the Blue Jackets had to get a maximum return. That would only happen if Jones got a max-deal extension out of it. So they and the Chicago Blackhawks found an agreement.
The Blue Jackets sent Jones to the Blackhawks as the centerpiece of the trade that saw them acquire Adam Boqvist, a second rounder in 2021, a first rounder in 2022 or 2023 and then switching first round picks in 2021 from 32 to 12. The Blue Jackets also sent a sixth rounder in 2022 to the Blackhawks to complete the deal.
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This gave the Blue Jackets the fifth and 12th picks of the 2021 draft. This eventually also gave them the 6th and 12th picks of the 2022 draft. While that is an excellent return, the key would be nailing the picks.
Those four picks turned into Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk. Then add Boqvist and Jake Bean to this and you have exactly what the blueprint is supposed to look like for an effective reset.
Let’s look at this a slightly different way. Let’s look back to that game on May 8 against Detroit to see who played in that game that is no longer a Blue Jacket.
- Seth Jones
- Cam Atkinson
- Max Domi
Then if you consider who started the season on the Blue Jackets, you get some additional big names who were no longer in Columbus.
- Nick Foligno
- Pierre-Luc Dubois
- David Savard
That is six members of the core who were gone either during the season or during the offseason. Now let’s look at what each of these players brought in as part of the reset.
- Jones –> Boqvist, Sillinger, Bean, Jiricek.
- Atkinson –> Jake Voracek.
- Domi –> Aidan Hreschuk.
- Foligno –> Corson Ceulemans.
- Dubois –> Patrick Laine.
- Savard –> Tampa Bay’s first rounder that went in the Jones’ deal to the Blackhawks which helped lead to the Sillinger pick.
This all happened in less than two years from Jan 2021 to July 2022. Then add Johnny Gaudreau to this mix and you have not only a great reset, you have the blueprint that other teams should follow when a reset of the roster is necessary. Our William Espy says that the reset is officially over as a result of all these moves.
Other Teams Should Follow This Example
There are a few teams out there right now that could use a reset. The Winnipeg Jets come to mind given the recent Dubois situation. The San Jose Sharks come to mind here. You wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers and maybe even the Boston Bruins will need a reset soon.
Luckily for these teams and others, they just need to look at the job GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets have done with their reset. The first thing these teams need to do is make the hard decision to go ahead with a reset.
Not everyone has the guts to strip it down. The Flyers come to mind this season still trying to make something out of things when it’s clear they need a reset. In order for a reset to be successful, you have to be 100% committed to it.
This is why the Blue Jackets’ blueprint for a reset works here. As soon as the season ended, they went right to work. They traded their best defenseman in Jones. They even traded a fan favorite in Atkinson. They traded their captain away in Foligno and then traded one of their heart and soul players in Savard.
The results speak for themselves. Successful resets involve making numerous hard decisions on trades. Then the team has to hit on the picks they get back.
In the end, a successful reset is a total team effort from top to bottom. You need a GM who is willing to do what will be deemed unpopular in the moment. You need a scouting staff who will bring in the best talent with the picks you have. You also need a coach who can teach the game to help develop their young players along. Brad Larsen has done that so far.
The Blue Jackets have executed their reset as good as anyone can hope for. While they still have a ways to go in their progression, the fact they started the process when they did and then took the right steps along the way will have them back to contending in 2-3 years time.
To the other 31 teams, take note. When it’s your turn for a reset, just look back at how the Blue Jackets handled things in 2021-22. That is the model you will want to follow.
Commit to the reset. Maximize the return on trades. Ace the draft. Then make your team a desirable place to join. If you do that, maybe you’ll be as successful at resets as the Blue Jackets have been in the last two years.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.